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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...
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...
RECITAL REVIEW

Soprano Karina Gauvin

GAUVIN SPINS FRENCH SONG SORCERY IN INAUGURAL WEILL HALL VOCAL RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 13, 2012

An incessant topic of audience conversation about acoustics in the newly-opened Weill Hall – where is best to sit, can the oboe be heard - has tended since the inaugural gala weekend to overshadow the actual performances. Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin put many of those notions to rest Oct. 13 with a splendid recital of mostly French art song before a half-full house.

With pianist Michael McMahon, Ms. Gauvin presented six groups of songs in French that, although it’s the singer’s native tongue, the French language can have too much sonic familiarity over a full recital. Singing in German or Italian, which Ms. Gauvin also commands, tends to have greater variety of style and of course different vowel and distinct sounds. The soprano avoided sonic monotony with richly varied tone colors and vocal expressiveness.

The singer, resplendent in a flowing blue gown that added to the impression of fluidity in French music, opened with four Hahn songs that included the magical Si Mes Vers Avient des alles. This reviewer has always loved the classic but brisk Bidú Sayão recording, but in Weil and in a recording with virtuoso pianist Marc Andre-Hamlin Ms. Gauvin slowed things down to great effect, and continued with a lovely reading of A Chloris. Harmonic interest is foremost in these songs and was highlighted in Le Printemps by Mr. McMahon’s fluid pianism.

Three Duparc songs came next and in Chanson triste Ms. Gauvin opened up with more volume, reflecting much of the music of Duparc’s contemporary Faure. Chanson triste has a long fermata for the piano, as Phidylé also does with a postlude, and Ms. Gauvin’s pianissimo control that hands off the phrase to her pianist was complete. She uses very little chest resonance in her lower tones that don’t carry well, the voice sometimes disappearing towards the back of the hall.

Massenet songs, again in a block of four, closed the first half. The frothy Madrigal led into the famous and sad Elegy, the tempo for both songs was just right and the soprano’s voice beautifully colored and focused. Les Femmes de Magdala, concerning women watching the world from the side of a road, produced an elegant call and response between the singer and pianist, and another bantamweight ending. The finale, L’improvisateur, was rollicking.

Ms. Gauvin developed a happy rapport with her audience that included two members of her family, and remarked in song introductions about certain composers and certain anniversaries that affected her program selections. She frequently used an infectious laugh to punctuate stories and all was genuine and felicitous.

Ms. Gauvin performed a second half of 14 songs, all with impeccable intonation and disparate characterizations that continued the fluency of French song by using her operatic power deftly. Debussy’s Nuit d’etoiles was sung masterfully and the following Mandoline had a jolly character. The rhapsodic Beau Soir was a highlight of the evening, sensuously sung with palpable emotional impact.

Honegger’s set of six songs, Saluste de Bartas, was an upbeat antidote to the more conventional harmonies of the preceding music. Standing out were the interpretations of Le Château du Bartas with its repetitive rhythmic patterns in the piano part and bell-like tones, and the operatic Tout le long de las Baïse where Ms. Gauvin slightly widened her vibrato to accentuate this delicate and mesmerizing song, her voice liking to go high with sotto voce notes.

In Bizet the full palette of Ms. Gauvin’s vocal color was applied to four songs, each individual and passionately sung. Adieux de ‘hôtesse arabe was presented with an undulating line in the piano and a seamless and controlled legato from Ms. Gauvin. Bizet songs with a Spanish flavor (Guitare and Ouvre ton coeur) were alternatively sung coquettishly and with a dissonant Seville flair, in contrast to the lively dance hall taste of the vivacious and exciting La coccinelle. Ms. Gauvin seems to own La coccinelle with abundant facial expressions and connection with her audience and the singing was virtuosic.

Mr. McMahon was a consummate partner the entire evening, his arpeggios smooth and sforzandos dramatic and adding perfectly to Ms. Gauvin’s singing. He seldom had much original to say with his playing and eschewed inner voices, though a singer could not ask for a more dependable pianist.

Two encores in English were offered, beginning with Weill’s “Buddy on the Night Shift” (from the Propaganda Songs of 1944) and a Scottish folk song transcribed by an unnamed Canadian composer (Ms. Gauvin herself? Mr. Hamelin?). Both were idiomatically and stylishly performed and were a delight to the audience, eliciting additional bravas.

Mary Beard contributed to this review.