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Choral and Vocal
A SEASONAL MESSIAH WITH BALANCE AND HEFT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 10, 2017
The mid-December concert season seems for jaded reviewers to invariably include a Messiah performance, and perhaps a Messiah in a long string of similar and mundane performances. This was decidedly not the case when San Franciscoís Philharmonia Baroque mounted Handelís eminent three-part 1742 Orato...
Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sundayís Santa Rosa Symphony concert featured two elegant and refined guests: music director candidate Andrew Grams and pianist Stewart Goodyear. Both displayed dazzling technique and consummate artistry, but Goodyear was the more consistent of the two. Some of Gramsí inconsistency may have st...
Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franckís wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on todayís concert programs, and I canít remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine Ė symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals Ė so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekendís concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuevís high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovskyís big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboaís Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighiís B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
Chamber
MIR” QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma Countyís Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the ...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Deep Valley Chamber Music / Saturday, February 04, 2012
Elena Casanova, piano; Joel Cohen, cello; Roy Malan, violin and Philip Santos, violin, Elizabeth Prior, viola

Cellit Joel Cohen

CAPTIVATING DOHNANYI AND ELGAR IN UKIAH'S DEEP VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 04, 2012

If the nearly 300 people at a Feb. 4 Ukiah concert are an indication, the Deep Valley Chamber Music series has finally arrived. One of the best-kept secrets in North Coast music, Deep Valley has been presenting increasingly challenging repertoire and first-cabin musicians since 2008, and the ďMidwinterĒconcert in First Presbyterian Church was provocative and ultimately satisfying.

Provocative? Chamber music by Dohnanyi (his Serenade for String Trio) and Elgar (his A Minor Piano Quintet) are rarely-played items, and the Brahms Cello Sonata wasnít one of the usual two, but a transcription for cello of his first Violin Sonata in G. Redwood Valley cellist Joel Cohen and Ukiah pianist Elena Casanova began with the Brahms, always curious because the so familiar and rich-hued themes have to take on the celloís resonance and the lower (darker) pitch. Recent hearings of the work, by violinist Alexander Barantshik in Santa Rosa (G Major) and cellist Joyce Geeting (D Major), were not offset by the Ukiah performance. Mr. Cohen, oddly playing from score, has a lovely bottom-end sound, favored by the hallís acoustics, and adopted a brisk and no-nonsense tempo in the vivace. This was not a note-perfect performance and a page-turnerís slip affected more than once the ensemble. Ms. Casanova was an aggressive partner throughout, not bass heavy in the coda but redeeming herself in the final two chords.

The pianist brought out seductive inner voices in the lovely second movement Adagio and here the partnership was excellent, Mr. Cohenís dynamic control and double stops deftly executed. In the finale the thematic connection with the first movement was explored in a magisterial way, the quiet ending enhanced by an elegant cello grace note in the last bar.

Dohanyiís music is often allied with Brahms, but in the 1904 Op. 10 Serenade there was none of the German master, but a lot of Dvorak and Magyar influences. Joining Mr. Cohen were violist Roy Malan and violist Elizabeth Prior to craft a riveting and convincing reading of the five-movement work. Ensemble was impeccable throughout, the long line of the viola in the Romanza and pizzicato duet of cello and viola over Mr. Malanís soaring violin captivating. Often I have heard a sharp edge to Mr. Malanís tone, especially in the high registers, but the acoustics were warm and direct here and his playing all evening was exemplary. The Scherzo was a presto romp with Mr. Cohenís cello singing out, the dramatic playing underscored by many false cadences. Inter-movement applause seemed finally appropriate.

The Serenade tends to wander structurally, but in a way musician love (as in Schubertís ďheavenly lengthĒ) and in this performance highlighting the composerís consummate invention. A propulsive Rondo concluded the work, Mr. Malanís clean scale playing carrying to the back of the hall and ultimately bringing at the final chords the audience to its feet in appreciation.

The long intermission in a long concert featured only Elgarís Op. 84 Quintet, and in the first movement itís a very un-Edwardian Elgar. Ms. Casanova returned to the piano, joined by Hayward-based violinist Philip Santos and the string trio, to play a surging first movement. Here the composer lurking was perhaps Franck, and the feeling of a romantic approach of 1880 palpable in a movement from 1918. Itís easy but dangerous to conclude that Elgarís Quintet grew out of the carnage of the War, but if itís there at all, it would be in the opening chordal and chromatic Moderato-Allegro. Ms. Casanova pushed the pace and incisively contrasted the opening march and the curious ďpalm courtĒ waltz sections. Major and minor alternate a lot here and Ms. Priorís voice leading was exquisite.

A more familiar Elgar, of the Enigma Variations and Violin Concerto, returns in the Adagio which was elegantly played. Mr. Santos and Mr. Malan sounded as one and Mr. Cohen played the piano phrases with great subtlety. In this groupís hands the movement took on a threnody character, the interplay of vocal lines attainting radiance. A triumphant finale, modulating often, was demanding on each performer with sweeping arpeggio patterns that required Ms. Casanovaís most concentrated playing of the evening. The massive final chords, from the low cello and the pianistís bottom E to the high strings, resounded to loud applause and cheers.

Though each of concertís musicians performs constantly all over the North Bay area, they seldom have schedules that allow them to perform together, making the virtuosity of the instrumental mix an affecting achievement.