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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

Cellist Sara Sant'Ambrogio of the Eroica Trio

AN EROICA PERFORMANCE FULL OF PASSION AND MOMENTUM

by Terry McNeill
Monday, March 19, 2012

Prospects for exciting Santa Rosa Symphony concert on March 19 were all good: three alluring soloists, two primo Beethoven works and John Adams' beguiling symphonic suite "The Chairman Dances." To a full house in the Wells Fargo Center, the program mix spelled success.

The effervescent suite from Adams’ opera "Nixon in China" (1985) was a shrewd opening. The fabric of sound favored the percussion and tympani sections, whose gongs and woodblocks were often used in spicy syncopation. The piano, played by Kymry Esainko, was a major part of the music and could be heard clearly over the orchestra's minimalistic chord patterns. Percussionists Allen Biggs, Susan Jette and Stan Muney were busy with the composer's manifold demands.

Adams' splendid concert piece mixes the weight and glitter of a big pop band with the finesse of a conventional orchestra, and the fusion works resplendently in ways that later Adams fusion works don't. Conductor Bruno Ferrandis' careful stick control was ideal for juxtaposing the wistful sections with the scintillating rhythmic repetitions and iterations.

Beethoven's C Major Concerto for Violin, Piano and Cello, Op. 56, closed the first half, with the Eroica Trio as soloists. The charm of these soloists was not lost on the audience. Clapping was heavy after the first movement, and there was an ovation after the concluding Rondo. Pianist Erika Nikrenz and violinist Susie Park certainly sounded proficient, but they had less than stellar projection. Ms. Nikrenz used a score, but Ms. Park and cellist Sara Sant'Ambrogio played without one, a telling detail as the Trio has given more than 100 public performances of the Triple Concerto. It’s in their blood.

The playing was fluent throughout and congruent with Mr. Ferrandis' conception and tempos. Instrumental handoff of themes and voice leading were flawless and secure. Ms. Sant'Ambrogio adopted a narrow vibrato but played the principal themes with a creamy legato and a sound that carried over her partners. Beethoven's never-ending innovation was on display in the third movement, the soloists passing the motives back and forth with increasing intensity. Although the performance had plasticity, it was on the whole underplayed, elegant but lacking the big sound that some virtuosos can bring to this sporadically programmed work.

The Trio gave an encore, Piazzola's "Oblivion," an enchanting work that is becoming standard repertoire. Ms. Sant'Ambrogio's vibrato widened considerably in the rich tango colors, pairing perfectly with the violin when the latter moved to the final bars with an exquisite upward portamento slide.

The second half consisted of one piece: Beethoven’s Op. 55 Third Symphony (Eroica). Mr. Ferrandis, with a reduced number of musicians, began briskly but not so abruptly as the iconic "two E-flat pistol shots" from the famous Toscanini recordings. The brass section occasionally overpowered the strings in the opening Allegro con brio, but in the Marcia Funebre Mr. Ferrandis coaxed lovely pianissimo playing from the entire orchestra--the best quiet playing of the evening, clear and sensuous. The unison horn solos in the Scherzo (Darby Hinshaw, Meredith Brown, Alex Camphouse, Susanne Chasalow and Henry Viets) were played with refinement and dead-on pitch. The exciting finale spotlighted the strings singing out the powerful theme, with the bass and cello sections deftly adding pizzicato parts. Principal flute Kathleen Reynolds played graceful and polished scale passages.

Mr. Ferrandis has vivid ideas about this seminal symphony, and he balanced vibrant orchestral played with his familiar section control and exuberance. Were the tempos in this genre-changing work too fast? Not for me as Mr. Ferrandis has a magic wand with such tempos. It was an Eroica performance full of passion, clarity and momentum.