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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

Soprano Carol Menke

FROM TRIO TO SEXTET

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sonoma State’s estimable Trio Navarro, long at the center of the North Bay chamber music scene, morphed into the Navarro Chamber Players on Nov. 18 in a Weill Hall concert that was both exhilarating and puzzling. The trio’s violinist Roy Malan and cellist Jill Rachuy Brindel were absent. Taking their chairs and more were violinists Joseph Edelberg and Kathryn Marshall, violist Betsy London and SSU faculty cellist Judiyaba. The sole Trio Navarro representative was Marilyn Thompson, who anchored the ensemble at piano.

The first half was devoted solely to Schumann’s E-Flat Major Quintet. In these capable hands, this celebrated work became enigmatic. Though the performance was in every way professional, the splendor of Schumann was defeated by the Weill Hall acoustics. How could this be in a hall now celebrated from Mumbai to Reykjavik? The usual pristine sound of the ensemble was lost when 100 people occupied a hall that seats 1,417 and has a 53-foot ceiling. From a sixth-row center seat, the opening Allegro with the lovely main theme was dull, the instrumental lines cloudy. The top tenor to the piano was only partially audible and didn’t carry.

Moving way back to Row R helped, but now everything in this hard-charging piece was a little distant. The Scherzo was echt Schumann and produced the most distinctive impact. The problem was that Schumann’s lush harmonies, string doublings and constant legato would have been a delight in a full house, but in an essentially empty hall they were bouncing all over. Where is Schroeder Hall when we need it?

Following intermission, the ambiance and acoustical picture sharply changed. Joaquin Turina, a composer familiar to the Navarro, wrote his “Las Musas de Andelucia” in 1942. The ensemble performed six of the nine movements, being joined for two (“Melpómene” and “Erato”) by soprano Carole Menke.

Beginning with Mr. Edelberg and Ms. Thompson playing “Euterpe,” the rhythms were rumba-like but always clean, the light vibrato adding a snazzy touch. Even though Turina was from Seville, there was nothing Spanish in this bright section and the following “Talia,” a slow and amiable suite for string quartet, with a snappy pizzicato ending. Cellist Judiyaba was featured in the easygoing “Polomnia,” where the piano line has a Gershwinesque character. The piece was almost a threnody for cello, with a haunting note at the bottom of the instrument’s register carrying throughout the hall.

Ms. Menke sang the fourth section in high tessitura, accompanied by Ms. Thompson’s block chords, and in powerful Spanish, ended in a thrilling top note. String quartet tremolos introduced the penultimate “Erato” section, where Ms. Menke was again comfortable in her top register with unison strings. The concluding “Caliope” began somberly but sprang to life in a slow and beguiling dance.

Four lovely songs from Vaughan Williams came next, selections from “Along the Field,” with Ms. Menke joined by Mr. Edelberg’s solo violin. It was a perfect combination, especially when in the song “In the Morning,” the descending violin part intertwined with Ms. Menke’s elegant voice.

Three tangos from SSU resident composer Brian Wilson closed the concert. The first, “They Say Hope is Happiness,” features short blocks of sound with the piano weaving in and out. “It Is the Hour” had a syncopated dance-hall flavor with gentle dissonant chords, almost palm court. The slinky “O but Our Treacherous BB Guns” (from Kherdian Songs) was an adventurous composition with the quartet in frequent pizzicato.

All three tangos were gracefully written for the instruments and were a highlight of the evening, earning the composer (who was present) standing applause from performers and audience alike.