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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...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
BEETHOVEN'S VALENTINE'S DAY GIFT IN RAC SEBASTOPOL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, February 14, 2020
Continuing a season of Redwood Arts Council successes, the Kouzov Duo performed an eclectic Valentine’s Day concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church before an audience of 125. Beethoven’s charming Op. 66 Variations on Mozart’s “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from the opera the Magic Flute was a bouncy ...
LUSH BACH PERFORMANCE IN DENK'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 13, 2020
Memorable artistic interpretations of musical masterpieces are often at extremes, and with the Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (WTC - Book I) that Jeremy Denk played in Weill Hall Feb. 13, the pianist was only sporadically at unique or ebullient musical ends. But his playing wasn’t exactly at opposite...
SYMPHONY REVIEW

Composer Johannes Brahms

ORCHESTRA UNITED AT THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY

by Steve Osborn
Monday, December 12, 2011

Near the end of its Dec. 12 performance of the Brahms Requiem, a soprano in the Santa Rosa Symphony Honor Choir collapsed at the back of the stage, perhaps from excessive heat or lack of air. The incident wasn't surprising, since more than 100 singers were crammed shoulder to shoulder in the limited space. What was surprising was that the singers were able to project a unified sound, given that the assembled multitude was actually composed of four choirs, ranging from the Santa Rosa High School Chamber Singers to two choirs from Santa Rosa Junior College plus the venerable Sonoma Bach Choir.

Unanimity took a while to arrive, but when it did, the results were gratifying, particularly in the latter movements of the Requiem. Of these, the concluding seventh was the most affecting, where the lightly accompanied choir sang "Selig sind die Toten, die in dem Herrn sterben, von nun an" (Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth). The ensemble was impeccable, gently urged forward by Maestro Bruno Ferrandis, whose fluid arm motions helped sustain each line and bring the piece to a heartfelt ending.

The singing in the preceding movements was less assured, yet the orchestra was rock-solid throughout. The violas seemed to relish being on top of the heap in the first movement, which has no violin parts. They led a strong beginning that was shortly marred by some intonation problems in the choir, which tended to go flat. These difficulties were compounded by Ferrandis' slow tempos and disconnected strokes. Phrases didn't flow into each other, and the music seemed to lurch.

By the second movement, the voices (and pitches) warmed up a notch, leading to some impressive crescendos and strong entries. Baritone soloist Jubilant Sykes took over in the third, strenuously pleading with the Lord to show that "mein Leben ein Ziel hat" (my life has an aim). His voice, which had been sadly amplified in the first half (more on that later), was both riveting and rounded, and his diction was superb.

In contrast, soprano Karen Clift, the soloist in the fifth movement, seemed constricted, her true voice barely emerging from an excess of vibrato. She sounded better in her lower range, and her swells were well controlled, but the overall performance was not up to the standard Sykes had set.

Alternating with the soloists throughout, the choir finally hit its stride in the fourth movement and sang out fully in the sixth, particularly in the section beginning "Denn es wird die Posaune schallen" (For the trumpet shall sound).

Trumpets of a different sort sounded in the first half, when Sykes sang the spirituals "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" and "Were You There?" into an unnecessary microphone. Everyone knows that the acoustics at the Wells Fargo Center are bad, but they aren't bad enough to require a microphone, especially for a singer as powerful as Sykes. The Wells Fargo isn't Yankee Stadium.

As if to demonstrate the blessing and the curse of artificial sound, Sykes began "Sometimes" slightly below a whisper, gradually building up in volume while swooping and soaring from one end of his range to the other. The inevitable loud passages were simply too loud, his voice ricocheting around the theater from speakers suspended over the balconies. The same pattern repeated in "Were You There?" which culminates in the line "Sometimes I feel like shouting." And he did.

Before the spirituals, the orchestra warmed up the full house with a respectable but rather lackluster performance of Brahms' "Tragic Overture." In keeping with the expansive spirit of the evening, the ensemble was supplemented for the overture with about a dozen young musicians from the Symphony's Youth Orchestra. Both young and not-so-young played all the notes, yet the piece lacked shape, a formlessness compounded by Ferrandis' slow tempo.

Given that the Requiem was looming in the second half, the concert might have been better served by a more cheerful opener, such as Brahms' "Academic Festival Overture," followed by some microphone-free singing from Sykes. The amplification can wait until baseball season.

[Reprinted by permission of San Francisco Classical Voice.]