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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...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
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...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Oakmont Concert Series / Thursday, September 13, 2012
Jennifer Culp, cello; Betty Woo, piano

Cellist Jennifer Culp

BEETHOVEN VARIATIONS HIGHLIGHT CULP-WOO RECITAL AT OAKMONT

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, September 13, 2012

Cellist Jennifer Culp brought a surprise to her Oakmont Concert Series performance on Sept. 13 when she opened with Barber’s early Cello Sonata, Op. 6. Beginning with a tonal yet difficult to assimilate work was a good choice, as mostly familiar pieces filled out the recital before about 125 patrons in Berger Auditorium.

Partnering with long-time collaborator pianist Betty Woo, Ms. Culp played the three-movement Barber sonata with solid technical command and admirable balance with the piano. Her sound is rich, never thin nor weak, and her control of pianissimo all afternoon was exemplary. The extended and often segmented Adagio movement is at the center of the sonata, and it had parts that were dreamy and rhapsodic. Barber’s piano part, played by the composer at the 1932 premiere, presented no ostensible difficulties for Ms. Woo, and her emphasis was in the lyricism that appears throughout the piece. Ms. Culp's intonation was secure throughout.

The sonic texture was lightened for Beethoven’s "Twelve Variations on a Theme from Handel’s Oratorio Judas Maccabaeus," WoO 45. The actual them is “See, The Conquering Hero Comes,” and each of the variations is very individual, including one for the piano alone and several requiring fleet right-hand figurations in the piano part. Ms. Culp’s vibrato was everywhere flexible, and she projected the wonderful theme in many sharp contrasts. Ms. Woo played the third variation’s rapid repeated notes brilliantly. The long penultimate variation (Adagio) was particularly well played, with the arpeggios in the piano part setting off the cello’s thematic statements.

This set of variations, from 1796, is a masterful example of Beethoven’s endless invention, and it received some of the best playing of the concert, along with substantial applause.

A novel transcription of Scriabin’s B-Flat Minor Etude from Op. 11 closed the first half. The etude was an odd program choice as it is short and achingly nostalgic. Piatigorsky’s arrangement has a beautiful ending tessitura, fading away. Ms. Culp played elegantly, with graceful bow attacks and faultless phrasing.

Rachmaninoff’s G Minor Sonata, Op.19, filled the second half. Composed in 1901, this work is acknowledged as one of the foremost cello sonatas of the 20th century. The opening Lento – allegro moderato found the two performers in a pensive mood, and they chose moderate tempos and restrained volume.

The following Scherzo was played more robustly, but it was clear that this was not to be a monumental reading. Ms. Woo played with facile technique, but she didn’t project the luscious themes with a big sonority. By the same token, she never covered the cello line. The audience benefited from the first-rate balances and the haunting themes from the cello in the famous Andante. Ms. Culp seldom leans into the phrases in the Russian style of Shafran, Piatigorsky and Rostropovich, but her burnished tone and patrician singing line were formidable. She eschews the now-popular animated gestures of cello virtuosi. Instead, she plays in a restrained, focused style even during the most intense drama.

The Rachmaninoff is a grateful work for performers and at nearly 30 minutes of opulent romanticism, deeply satisfying for listeners as well. Ms. Culp and Ms. Woo clearly loved playing the sonata.

No encore was offered.