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Symphony
ZUILL PLAYS ZWILICH WITH SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The Santa Rosa Symphony took a cautious step toward the return of live music in their March 28 virtual concert by sharing the stage with an actual live soloist rather than an apparition. Star cellist Zuill Bailey was still masked, and his back was toward the equally masked and plexiglassed orchestra...
Chamber
ECLECTIC CELLO PIANO VIRTUAL RECITAL FROM TOMKINS ZIVIAN DUO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The venerable 41-year Redwood Arts Council Series in Occidental has joined the virtual recital world with low budget but artistically satisfying programs, mostly using videos filmed in the performer’s residences. March 28 saw the Tanya Tomkins-Eric Zivian duo present an eclectic program from their ...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HITS THE SWEET SPOT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Small orchestras can inhabit a sweet spot between chamber ensembles and full orchestras, but how well they hit that spot depends on the composer's orchestration and the players' ability to project. That dependence was on full display in the Santa Rosa Symphony's Feb. 28 concert, which featured three...
Chamber
NOVEL OBOE-HARPSICHORD RECITAL FROM AIKEN DUO IN UKIAH
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Oboe and harpsichord recitals are a rare North Bay event, even in a pandemic environment where a formal hall setting isn’t available. So it was a delight Feb. 21 to experience on the Ukiah Symphony’s website a recital by Symphony oboist Beth Aiken and harpsichordist husband Tom. The Aiken home vis...
Symphony
A HEALTHY MIX OF TRANSCRIPTIONS AND ORIGINALS FROM THE SR SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Transcriptions and ascending arpeggios were the order of the day on Jan. 24, as the Santa Rosa Symphony performed uplifting works by Bach/Webern, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Marianna Martínes and Mozart. The concert video was made in Weill Hall on Jan. 9. The first transcription was Webern’s 1935 renderi...
Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
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.