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Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
Symphony
PEACE AND LOVE FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 04, 2018
Before the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 4 performance of Leonard Bernstein’s “Symphonic Dances from West Side Story,” Symphony CEO Alan Silow took a moment to acknowledge the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack and to observe that music offers a more peaceful and loving view of the world. Mr. ...
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.