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Recital
DEMANDING VIOLIN SONATAS CONQUERED BY BEILMAN-WEISS DUO IN SCHROEDER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, May 14, 2017
Violinist Benjamin Beilman’s ravishing Mozart performance at last summer’s Weill Hall ChamberFest finale lured an enthusiastic crowd to Schroeder Hall May 14 to hear if his secure virtuosity was up to a program of demanding sonatas. He did not disappoint. With the powerful pianist Orion Weiss in t...
Symphony
SOVIETS INVADE WEILL HALL, TAKE NO PRISONERS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 07, 2017
Bruno Ferrandis may be French, but he excels in Soviet repertoire. His Slavonic expertise was more than amply demonstrated at the Santa Rosa Symphony’s May 7 concert, where the program began joyfully with Khachaturian’s ballet suite from “Masquerade,” surged forward with Prokofiev’s second violin co...
Recital
MASTERFUL PIANISM IN GOODE'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, May 05, 2017
Pianist Richard Goode programmed an evening of treasures May 5 from four great composers, and is an artist of intimacy and intelligence, power and passion, able to go deep and to soar. Hearing Mr. Goode play this literature was a reminder of how music does indeed bridge worlds and time. Bach’s E m...
Recital
ELEGANT ORGAN SALUTE TO THE REFORMATION
by Paul Blanchard
Sunday, April 30, 2017
Organist Jonathan Dimmock presented an April 30 recital in homage to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, playing Schroeder Hall’s wonderful Brombaugh instrument. Mr. Dimmock is the organist for the San Francisco Symphony, principal organist for the Palace of the Legion of Honor and teaches at...
Chamber
NOTES AND BARS DO NOT A PRISON MAKE
by Nicki Bell
Saturday, April 29, 2017
The Hermitage Piano Trio brought exuberant musicality and sumptuous sound to a packed house April 29 in Occidental's Performing Arts Center for the last concert in the Redwood Arts Council’s 37th season. With a wide interpretive range--from lush to delicate to passionate--these three young Russian v...
Recital
SCHUMANN AND BARTOK HIGHLIGHT BRONFMAN RECITAL IN WEILL
by Lee Ormasa
Friday, April 21, 2017
Those people once addicted to the “Angry Birds” game application likely suffered an auditory flashback during the opening measures of the allegro from Bartok’s Suite, Op. 14, the opening work in Yefim Bronfman’s April 21 recital at Weill Hall. The repetitive opening figures of the Bartok were...
Symphony
HULKING MAHLER "TITAN" AT SO CO PHIL'S SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 08, 2017
A composer’s first symphony rarely gives a clear indication of what beautiful complexities will follow over the years. Early Mozart and Tchaikovsky are examples, and the big exceptions to this axiom are the “firsts” of Beethoven, Shostakovich and Mahler. Tackling Mahler ‘s D Major Symphony (No. 1,...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY STAYS CLOSE TO HOME
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 26, 2017
Santa Rosa Symphony concerts usually feature high-powered soloists imported from afar, but for their recent “Bring on the Strings” concert set, they stuck close to home, thrusting their principal violin, viola and cello into the limelight. The violinist (Joseph Edelberg) and the violist (Elizabeth P...
Recital
SLAM BANG SONORITY IN HAOCHEN ZHANG'S SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 19, 2017
Piano Competition winners are in ample supply, and it’s often a hit and miss proposition as to their sterling interpretative qualities. However, the quadrennial Van Cliburn Competition in Ft. Worth has continually produced top-level artists, and the 2009 winner Haochen Zhang proved a formidable per...
Symphony
FOREIGN AFFAIRS CHARACTERS OF THE BAROQUE
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, known as Akamus, played a Weill Hall concert March 12 in a program called "Foreign Affairs -Characters of the Baroque.” The ensemble, that began in 1984, has 15 musicians led by concert master Bernhard Forck. Attired in elegant black with red accents, ranging from tie...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Green Music Center / Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Joyce DiDonato, soprano. Il Complesso Barocco, Dmitry Sinkovsky, conductor and violin.

Mezzo Soprano Joyce DiDonato

DIDONATO, THE DIVINE DIVA

by John Boyajy
Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato and the Baroque consort Il Complesso Barocco came to Sonoma State’s Weill Hall Nov. 20 with "Drama Queens," a concert consisting entirely of Baroque arias and instrumental works. The subtitle might well have been “How Not To Take Abuse, Infidelity, Revenge and Death Too Seriously.” Indeed, there were moments when Ms. DiDonato and her cohorts might have been mistaken for a rock group. She made it clear from the beginning that while she and the Complesso were classical musicians, it was not only acceptable but desirable to have some fun with one another on stage.

Ms. DiDonato, an international star who recently was named Musical America’s Vocalist of the Year, is the quintessential diva. She embraces her characters with intensity and conviction, and the result is mesmerizing. Many of her selections plied the depths of despair, torment, anguish and emotional pain, and in these, as well as the fewer more upbeat arias, her ability to capture the mood was brilliant.

Weill Hall’s acoustics were perfect for the Complesso’s 15 members. The strings sounded warm and rich, as did Ms. DiDonato’s voice, even in the softest passages. Before the many encores at the end of the concert, the singer told the audience, “You are so lucky to have this hall.” Understatement. The sound in Weill Hall is simply spectacular, and the audience luxuriated in the sonority.

The musicians--most importantly Ms. DiDonato and lead violinist Dmitry Sinkovsky--have clearly studied Baroque performance practice, and the music had a feeling of improvisation and spontaneity. Mr. Sinkovsky is a virtuosic leader, exhibiting his own flavor of charisma. The violinists and violists stood throughout the performance, but their leader went a step beyond, dancing, prancing and deep-knee-bending his way through every piece, his pony tail bobbing. An unnamed theorbo player was a gifted continuo contributor with refined projection. The group is small enough to have close rapport, often taking their cues directly from Ms. DiDonato. The ensemble playing was exemplary.

Ms. DiDonato’s voice is perfectly suited to the florid Baroque repertoire. She is a secure mezzo and has no difficulty with high tessitura, as in Giacomelli’s “Sposa, son disprezzata” (As a wife I am despised) and Hasse’s ”Morte col fiero aspetto” (Death's grisly aspect). She tossed off coloratura passages with skill and grace. She also exhibited great dynamic control, bringing an occasional phrase to an almost unbelievable level of softness. Only once during the evening did this strategy backfire for a brief moment, as a note faded beyond reach.

Elegant Baroque performance practice was notable throughout the evening. The strings players used a refined vibrato and frequent “hairpins” (paired crescendos and diminuendos). Ms. DiDonato also employed this technique, especially on long opening notes. There was plenty of ornamentation on the repeats, both by the instrumentalists and the singer.

One of the highlights of the evening was the Vivaldi Violin Concerto, RV 242, in which the athletic Mr. Sinkovsky demonstrated his ample technique and emotional drive in the virtuosic cadenzas. In his willingness to trade an occasional scratchy sound for passion and excitement, he reminded one of the Hungarian violinist Joseph Szigeti.

Responding to loud applause, Ms. DiDonato offered three encores. Keiser’s “Lasciami piangere” (Let me weep) was a slow and soulful threnody, and Orlandini's "Barbaro" (no translation needed) was a torrent of passionate invective. Handel’s lively “Brilla nell'alma,” which had concluded the formal program, was offered da capo to another ovation.

The musicians seemed to be having a good time throughout the evening. They smiled at each other often, and when she wasn't singing, Ms. DiDonato sometimes turned her back to the audience of 700 to smile in return. She also flicked her shoulders in time with the music and otherwise conveyed that this repertoire can be fun.

Except, perhaps, when she’s singing about torment, adultery and death.