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Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
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.