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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

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.