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Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
Chamber
UNEXPECTED ARENSKY AND MENDELSSOHN BY THE NAVARRO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
The 100 people entering Schroeder Hall Feb. 17 for a Trio Navarro concert were handed a program that appeared to feature two popular piano trios, Mendelssohn and Arensky. But continuing the Navarro’s tradition of repertoire exploration, the pieces were not the usual first Mendelssohn and first Aren...
Recital
GLOVER'S ECLECTIC PROGRAMMING HIGHLIGHT'S CINNABAR RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
Daniel Glover is arguably the busiest virtuoso pianist in the San Francisco Bay area, but rarely is heard in North Bay concerts. So 90 local pianophiles were anxious to hear him Feb. 17 in Petaluma’s charming small Cinnabar Theater, and they were rewarded with an eclectic program of sometimes unfam...
Symphony
MENDELSSOHN'S SCOTTISH SAVES THE EVENING IN SRS WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Monday, February 11, 2019
The audience entering Weill Hall for Santa Rosa Symphony concerts Feb. 9-11 were presented with a program that on first glance appeared a curious patchwork – a great symphony mixed with a seldom heard concerto and two disparate overtures, and a guest conductor unknown locally. Monday night’s concer...
Recital
INTRIGUING BELL-HAYWOOD RECITAL BEFORE FULL HOUSE IN WEILL HALL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, February 08, 2019
A big portion of the capacity audience in Weill Hall February 8th came to hear violinist Joshua Bell’s virtuosity, and were treated as well to splendid playing from Sam Haywood, Mr. Bell’s regular pianist since 2010. The duo performed three engaging sonatas, highlighted by Mr. Bell’s sterling techn...
Symphony
TRIPLE PLAY UKIAH SYMPHONY CONCERT AND TCHAIKOVSKY SERENADE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Over the years the Ukiah Symphony’s concerts have been in the Classical Sonoma Calendar sections, but rarely has this Orchestra, now in its 39th season, had a full winter season concert review. The provocative Jan. 27 program in Mendocino College’s Center Theater seemed a good reason to reacquaint ...
Symphony
JACKSON THEATER WELCOMES A NEW RESIDENT ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Moving to a permanent new performance venue can be a perilous undertaking for an orchestra, with different acoustics, the loyal audience finding the new spot and infrastructure challenges of lighting and lobby and backstage operations. In their first concert Jan. 26 in Windsor’s Jackson Theater the...
Symphony
ECLECTIC PASSIONATE PROGRAMMING AT MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 26, 2019
The Marin Symphony’s second Masterworks concert of the 2018-19 season featured works by John Adams, Sibelius and Brahms, a masterful assembly. In a spoken introduction before the program’s first half, conductor Alasdair Neale primed the audience for the “terra incognita” of Adams’ The Chairman Dance...
CHAMBER REVIEW

Cellist Zuill Bailey and Pianist Awadagin Pratt March 29 in Napa's Jarvis Conservatory

GRANITIC SONATAS AND RARE SONG TRANSCRIPTIONS IN ALL BRAHMS NAPA VALLEY SYMPHONY BENEFIT RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Concerts devoted solely to the music of Brahms are not that rare, and Sonoma County had one several years ago in the glorious “Norma Brown and Friends” event at SRJC. But an all-Brahms concert featuring just his cello music is novel, and a splendid example occurred March 29 in Napa’s Jarvis Conservatory.

In a fund raiser benefiting the Napa Valley Symphony, cellist Zuill Bailey joined colleague Awadagin Pratt in the two big Sonatas and several of the Hamburg master’s songs in cello transcriptions. And audience of 80 heard exceptional artistry accompanied by Mr. Bailey’s witty and cogent descriptions of Brahms’ complex life and prickly personality. There was no printed program and the cellist played from score all evening, seldom referring to the music and instead looking at his instrument or playing long stretches with closed eyes.

The lovely song Sommerfäden, Op. 72, No. 2, began the concert and immediately established that the instrumental balances were exemplary and the cello sound rich. The hall’s piano was less than professional, the lower tenor and bass registers indistinct and wooden and the treble lacked color. Mr. Pratt pushed the instrument hard all evening, particularly so in the first Brahms Sonata in E Minor, Op. 38. Written with thicker textures than the two Mendelssohn cello Sonatas, and far outstripping the contemporary Rubinstein and Servais works, the E Minor benefited by Mr. Bailey’s sonorous tone and deft decrescendos into the lower registers. In the nostalgic Menuetto Mr. Pratt played the opening four notes and had a beguiling touch in the soft passages, mirroring the cellist’s bow which occasionally would linger longingly at the end of a phrase.

The fugal Allegro was played powerfully, Mr. Pratt driving the tempo and providing sharp accents, easily heard with the hall’s limited reverberation and Mr. Bailey's musical line in a low range. The coda was played very fast and was emphatically exciting.

Prior to the famous F Major Sonata the duo played another transcription from a Brahms song, with no title stated but perfectly in the style of a Mendelssohn Song Without Words, such as the fetching D Major, Op.109. It was a captivating reading. The monumental Sonata that followed was packed with bravura playing. Just after the opening of the Allegro Vivace Mr. Pratt’s figurations at the piano enhanced some inner voices and Mr. Bailey’s vibrato became wider, and the tone had a nasal character that was clearly desired by the cellist and not at all unpleasant. The runs in both instruments were clear and the piano’s damper pedal captured the last word. The great Adagio was played with elegant sentiment but without a note of sentimentality. The descending-ascending pizzicatos in the cello were adroit and the movement’s tender ending chastely played.

The final two movements had the stamp of Mr. Pratt’s insistent rhythms and again perfect balances, even in the frequent key modulations of the Allegro molto. Intonation was never a problem for Mr. Bailey and the majesty of the duo’s conception and virtuosic performance generated a standing ovation.

The encores, each announced by Mr. Bailey, were another song transcription (perhaps the Liebestreu, Op. 3, No. 1?) with its two Mendelssohnian concluding chords, and the tender Brahms Lullaby, Op. 49, No. 4. Here as throughout this radiant recital instrumental display never got in the way of romantic refinement.

Napa Valley Symphony Executive Director Richard Aldag presided over the festivities that included a pre-music reception and a lavish post-music dinner with the artists.