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Chamber
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 08, 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...
Choral and Vocal
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...
Chamber
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...
Chamber
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...
Chamber
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...
BROWNE, PAREMSKI HEAD STELLAR CAST AT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 09, 2020
The Feb. 9 performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony offered a healthy dose of 21st century music firmly bound to the 19th. Matt Browne’s first symphony, “The Course of Empire”—based on a series of five paintings by Thomas Cole, who founded the Hudson River School of American painting in the 1820s—emp...
FRENCH ORCHESTRAL MUSIC A FIRST FOR THE SO CO PHILHARMONIC
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 02, 2020
Over many years the Sonoma County Philharmonic has played little French music, but perhaps this oversight was corrected Feb. 2 in a splendid all-Gallic program Feb. 1 and 2 in the Jackson Theater. Classical Sonoma reviewed the Sunday afternoon concert. In his eighth conducting season with the So C...
Symphony
POLISH MUSICAL WORLDS GLOW BRIGHT IN NFM WROCLAW WEILL PERFORMANCE
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, February 01, 2020
The NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic, with conductor Giancarlo Guerrero, gave a concert of enormous energy and emotional impact on Feb.1 to a small audience in Weill Hall. This orchestra has been a major cultural force in Poland since 1949, playing under many renowned conductors and has been committed to pr...
Opera
EXTRAVAGANT ARIAS IN NEXT GENERATION TENORS GALA VALLEJO CONCERT
by Mark Kratz
Saturday, February 01, 2020
“Beautiful, strange, and unnatural…” said orchestra conductor Thomas Conlin when speaking of the tenor voice. One of the coveted voice types of the opera world, the tenor voice is known for it’s piercing tones and soaring, unnatural high notes. The iconic image of the Pagliacci clown (in the famed...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Calder Quartet / Sunday, November 04, 2012
Benjamin Jacobson and Andrew Bulbrook, violin; Jonathan Moerschel,viola; Eric Byers, cello

Calder String Quartet

ADÉS' ARCADIANA HIGHLIGHTS CALDER QUARTET CONCERT IN MILL VALLEY CHAMBER SERIES

by John Metz
Sunday, November 04, 2012

The Calder Quartet saved the day Nov. 4 by stepping in at last minute to play for the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society’s second concert of this season. Originally set to appear was the Prague-based Prazak Quartet which cancelled due to an ill violinist. The Calder Quartet had performed the previous night in Berkeley. In the East Bay concert substantial works were programmed, including Bartok’s 1934 Fifth Quartet, Adés' The Four Quarters and three Conlon Nancarrow pieces. With such a daunting program Saturday night, one would predict the Quartet to be exhausted on Sunday.

But there was no sign of fatigue in the group’s fiery performance at the Mt. Tamalpais United Methodist Church. The Calder’s recital featured a lesser known Stravinsky work, Three Pieces for String Quartet, Mozart’s “Dissonant” Quartet , contemporary composer Thomas Adés’ Arcadiana, and finally Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in F minor, Op 80. The Calder Quartet was engaging from the very first notes of the concert up until its final chords. There were no dull moments.

The three Stravinsky movements are miniatures, with a total performance time of roughly seven minutes. Second violinist Andrew Bulbrook commented that it is the shortest quartet in the ensemble’s repertoire. It starts with a rustic dance, featuring drum effects played by cellist Eric Byers, and bagpipe-like drones in the viola, played by Jonathan Moerschel. In typical Stravinsky style, the meter is irregular, alternating one bar in three with two bars in two. The dance was over in less than a minute. According to Mr. Bulbrook, the second movement, appropriately entitled Eccentrique, was inspired by a clown Stravinsky knew. The movement drifts capriciously from one character to the next, sometimes prankish, at others burlesque, and at some points almost carnival-like. The writing requires great rhythmic precision from the performers. The last movement, entitled Cantique, suggests an austere Orthodox Church hymn.

Mozart’s well-known C major Quartet, K. 465, followed and is arguably one of Mozart’s most romantic works. The first movement starts with a peculiarly chromatic introduction, the cellist beginning with ominous low bass C’s as the violist and second violin enter. The key is vague at first, and in the second measure, just as the three instruments begin to suggest the harmony of C minor, the first violin enters with a surprising and out of place A-natural, creating the dissonance that earned the work its nickname. The slow introduction continues in this fashion and the key remains ambiguous until resolving into the bright and effervescent C major. The Calder Quartet’s performance of the second movement, an Andante cantabile suggesting a sweet and flowing operatic aria, was the highlight of this performance.

The other standard on the program, Mendelssohn’s F minor String Quartet op. 80, was the composer’s last major work. He composed it in memory of his recently deceased sister Fanny, also pianist and composer. Mr. Bulbrook commented to the audience that the death of Mendelssohn’s sister drove the composer to “new romantic heights.” This served as the program’s finale, and the ensemble delivered it with fire and bravura, with particularly fine playing from first violinist Benjamin Jacobson, whose role in this work was akin to that of the soloist in a violin concerto.

But the main event of the evening, by far, was the Calder’s performance of British composer Thomas Adés’ first string quartet, Arcadiana. The Calder has made its name from being the quartet of choice for some of today’s leading composers: Christopher Rouse, Terry Riley, and of course Mr. Adés. The last been hailed as the greatest British composer since Benjamin Britten. Mr. Adés’ new opera “The Tempest” was mounted at the Metropolitan Opera this season to critical acclaim.

Six of the seven movements of Arcadiana are what the composer calls “vanished or vanishing ‘idylls’.” The first movement is a Venetian gondola song and, along with the other odd-numbered movements is aquatic in theme. The second movement, Das klinget so herrlich, das klinget so schon, takes us to the idyll of Mozart’s kingdom of night. The third movement, Auf dem Wasser zu singen, returns the listener to the aquatic realm and the title is directly taken from one of Schubert’s most beloved songs. In this work, the sound of water is expressed through pizzicato “drips” and “drops” in all four instruments. The fourth movement, tango mortale, serves as the work’s interlude. The 5th movement, again aquatic in theme, is based on a famous painting in the Louvre, “L’Embarquement,” often called “The Embarkation for Cythera”. This painting is associated with Debussy’s piano work L'isle Joyeuse, and in the movement we heard lush and colorful harmonies reminiscent of Debussy and Ravel, and it was elegantly played.

The sixth movement, O Albion, was the most familiar in quality, reminiscent of Elgar’s Nimrod from the Enigma Variations. Arcadiana takes us finally to movement seven, Lethe, the river of oblivion, beyond which there is no return. The Calder Quartet’s performance was lucid and engaging, sometimes fiery and diabolic, and at other times dreamy and impressionistic. Performing this kaleidoscopic piece alongside the variety of other works on the program demonstrated the Calder’s mastery and versatility.

Clearly the Calder Quartet were the heroes of the day, not just for the last-minute substitution, but equally for performing a daring and virtuoso program.