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Symphony
ZUILL PLAYS ZWILICH WITH SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The Santa Rosa Symphony took a cautious step toward the return of live music in their March 28 virtual concert by sharing the stage with an actual live soloist rather than an apparition. Star cellist Zuill Bailey was still masked, and his back was toward the equally masked and plexiglassed orchestra...
Chamber
ECLECTIC CELLO PIANO VIRTUAL RECITAL FROM TOMKINS ZIVIAN DUO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The venerable 41-year Redwood Arts Council Series in Occidental has joined the virtual recital world with low budget but artistically satisfying programs, mostly using videos filmed in the performer’s residences. March 28 saw the Tanya Tomkins-Eric Zivian duo present an eclectic program from their ...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HITS THE SWEET SPOT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Small orchestras can inhabit a sweet spot between chamber ensembles and full orchestras, but how well they hit that spot depends on the composer's orchestration and the players' ability to project. That dependence was on full display in the Santa Rosa Symphony's Feb. 28 concert, which featured three...
Chamber
NOVEL OBOE-HARPSICHORD RECITAL FROM AIKEN DUO IN UKIAH
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Oboe and harpsichord recitals are a rare North Bay event, even in a pandemic environment where a formal hall setting isn’t available. So it was a delight Feb. 21 to experience on the Ukiah Symphony’s website a recital by Symphony oboist Beth Aiken and harpsichordist husband Tom. The Aiken home vis...
Symphony
A HEALTHY MIX OF TRANSCRIPTIONS AND ORIGINALS FROM THE SR SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Transcriptions and ascending arpeggios were the order of the day on Jan. 24, as the Santa Rosa Symphony performed uplifting works by Bach/Webern, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Marianna Martínes and Mozart. The concert video was made in Weill Hall on Jan. 9. The first transcription was Webern’s 1935 renderi...
Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
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...
CHAMBER REVIEW

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.