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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...
Recital
MUSCULAR PIANISM DOMINATES MILL VALLEY CHAMBER SOCIETY RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Piano recitals since the beginning of the genre open with finger pieces - Scarlatti or Soler Sonatas, Bach, a Mendelssohn Prelude and Fugue or perhaps Mozart or Haydn. Sarah Daneshpour’s March 12 opening work at the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society series abruptly avoided the norm with the 10-minut...
Recital
NOVEL HAYDN AND SCHUMANN IN YARDEN'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, March 09, 2017
Israeli pianist Einav Yarden has been a frequent Sonoma County visitor, playing private recitals for Spring Lake Village and Concerts Grand, and twice performing for Music at Oakmont. The Berlin-based artist returned to Oakmont’s Berger Auditorium March 9 with a program that was neither for connois...
Chamber
CONSUMMATE ENSEMBLE FROM THE MIRÓ IN WEILL
by Sonia Tubridy and Nicki Bell
Sunday, March 05, 2017
A March 5 Weill hall audience of 350 leaned in to share an intimate musical space and to hear the Miró String Quartet’s sterling concert. Starting with Haydn's Op. 20, No. 4, the four musicians seemed to want listeners to be enveloped in their music. The Miró plays with the feat of being four dist...
Recital
BRILLIANT VIOLIN AND PIANO ARTISTRY CHARMS SCHROEDER HALL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 26, 2017
A tiny Schroeder Hall audience heard a flawless recital Feb. 26 by Yu-Chien Tseng, arguably the best recent local violin recital since Gil Shaham’s transversal of the complete Bach Suites in Weill and Frank Almond’s Oakmont recital in 2015. Muscular playing was the afternoon’s norm, and with pianis...
Chamber
MUSIC AND ART MELD IN ZUCKERMAN TRIO CONCERT
by Nicki Bell
Friday, February 24, 2017
A Feb. 24 Weill Hall concert by the Pinchas Zuckerman Trio juxtaposed formidable music making with palpable associations about visual art. Brahms’ C Minor "Sonatensatz” (Scherzo) is a short youthful work for violin and piano, and was an opening call to action. Lively and vigorous playing alternated...
Chamber
THREE BEETHOVEN TRIOS BEGUILE AUDIENCE IN FEB. 19 WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Chamber music concerts featuring one composer can be tricky, but the Han/Setzer/Finckel trio made a Feb. 19 Weill Hall audience of 500 hear and to a degree see the boundless creativity of Beethoven. The G Major Trio, Op. 1, No. 2, opened the afternoon’s Beethoven odyssey and one wonders why it is t...
Chamber
AUTHORITATIVE BARTOK HIGHLIGHTS TETZLAFF VIOLIN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 18, 2017
Christian Tetzlaff’s Feb. 18 violin recital rolled along with lively and fresh readings of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert when the specter of Bartok’s granitic Second Sonata intervened. The sonic shock to the audience of 250 in Weill was palpable. Composed in 1923 the 20-minute two-movement work i...
Symphony
WHAT SOUND DO STAR-CROSSED LOVERS MAKE?
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 12, 2017
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, so the Santa Rosa Symphony feted the occasion by telling and retelling the story of Romeo and Juliet, a tale ever the more poignant during our era of stark divisions. The first telling was from Berlioz; the second from Prokofiev. In between was Brahms’ monu...
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.