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Recital
HOME RECITAL BACH COMPLETES HOLIDAY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 30, 2017
The just closing 2017 year was a calamity for many, but locally in music there were joys galore, and it was fitting Dec. 30 have the balm of two Bach’s violin sonatas in a private Guerneville home recital hosted by the eminent musician Sonia Tubridy. Violinist Richard Heinberg joined Ms. Tubridy in...
Choral and Vocal
A SEASONAL MESSIAH WITH BALANCE AND HEFT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 10, 2017
The mid-December concert season seems for jaded reviewers to invariably include a Messiah performance, and perhaps a Messiah in a long string of similar and mundane performances. This was decidedly not the case when San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque mounted Handel’s eminent three-part 1742 Orato...
Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE WITH SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony concert featured two elegant and refined guests: music director candidate Andrew Grams and pianist Stewart Goodyear. Both displayed dazzling technique and consummate artistry, but Goodyear was the more consistent of the two. Some of Grams’ inconsistency may have st...
Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
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.