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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...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Tiburon Music Festival / Saturday, June 28, 2008
Three for Piano & Strings

AN ORCHESTRAL SEXTET

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, June 28, 2008

On paper, the closing concert of the Tiburon Music Festival June 28 seemed a chancy venture. Two well-known piano concertos were to be performed with a soloist and an orchestra of just five string players. No winds, brass or percussion, no weight in the sections to produce mighty sound to honor the mighty Haydn and Beethoven.

The musical results? Impressive, convincing in their own way, but giving no great desire to displace the originals.

The final event of seven-concert Festival, all at St. Hilary Church, attracted 200 people, many curious to hear how Beethoven’s magisterial G Major Concerto, Op. 58, would unfold with minimal forces. Festival Director Paul Smith conducted from the piano with sparse hand gestures and head movements replacing a conductor’s baton. The simple opening statement from the piano set a dignified reference point and a slow tempo, both continuing until the sublime Andante con Moto. String pitch problems quickly settled down, and the low cello and bass frequencies were strong enough to cover the two violins and viola. The bright church acoustics favor these frequencies, and added much to the volume of bowed-string sound. Paul Rhodes played an elegant and sonorous cello line throughout, and had short but lush duos with Mr. Smith. The piano plays with the strings in places not heard in the original c. 1806 Concerto, and the cadenza was not wholly Beethoven, or even the Reinecke, which was once popular. It’s slightly jarring, but not at all irritating, to hear such a masterwork played this way. Mr. Smith’s trills, expressive and often very fast, were telling all evening.

The second movement was inspiring, each instrument carefully balancing the somber nature of the music, and the opening of the concluding Rondo-Vivace was a call to arms. Here the usual heft in the strings was missed, but the group’s focus was the interplay of question and answer, cello to piano, piano to Pamela Carey’s lead violin, sforzandos snapping. The shortened cadenza was mostly Beethoven, but perhaps something of Mr. Smith also? The ending had authority, and generated a standing ovation.

In the first half, the ensemble played Aulis Sallinen’s 1997 Introduction and Tango Overture, a less-than-ten minute exploration of powerful rhythmic possibilities. The introduction was somber, strident dissonances relaxing into atmospheric chorales. The Tango finally came, but it was far from the tango of the Argentinean bandoneon. The insistent rhythms here were performed for dramatic rather than seductive effect, and the unexpected ending was pungent. Wonderful stuff for a piano sextet, and there isn’t too much heard for this combination, past the Chausson Concerto, Op. 21, and the Mendelssohn Sextet. I vote for the Chausson next year.

Preceding the Sallinen and providing sharp contrast for the Beethoven was Haydn’s D Major Concerto, here again with the resident Sextet. Mr. Smith spoke to the audience about the provenance of the score reductions, and that transparent textures are mandatory. Playing frequently with the shift pedal, Mr. Smith led a taut performance, pushing the pace that often just had the strings arriving together at phrase endings. There is much Mozart in the Un Poco Adagio, with the upward progressions equally shared, and a short keyboard trill leading to the final Rondo. Here the many modulations brought variety to the music, the fast scales from the piano occasionally indistinct but always well integrated with the strings. Haydn’s most popular piano concerto, from about 1781, was gracefully served.

One would be remiss by not mentioning details which made the initial Tiburon Festival an event of substance – many works of Marin composers, performers from the SF Bay area, signature posters and wine labels, a sparkling facility and generous supplies of excellent gratis hors d’oeuvres. It was exotic to encounter oysters as intermission fare. I hope these happy traditions continue in next June’s Festival.