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Symphony
CONDUCTOR PLAYOFFS BEGIN IN SANTA ROSA
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 08, 2017
The Santa Rosa Symphony is calling 2017-18 “a choice season” because the next few months offer the audience and the symphony’s board of directors a chance to choose a new conductor from a pool of five candidates. Each candidate will lead a three-concert weekend set this fall and winter, with a final...
Symphony
DVORAK AND TCHAIKOVSKY ORCHESTRAL COLOR AT SO CO PHIL SEASON OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 30, 2017
A concert with curious repertoire and splashy orchestral color launched the 19th season of the Sonoma County Philharmonic Sept. 30 in Santa Rosa High School’s Auditorium. Why curious? Conductor Norman Gamboa paired the ever-popular Dvorak and his rarely heard 1891 trilogy In Nature’s Realm, with t...
Recital
ELEGANT PIANISM IN WATER MUSIC CHARMS HOUSE RECITAL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 03, 2017
A standard component of house concerts often involve listeners hearing the music but also smelling the lasagna and seeing the champagne in the adjacent kitchen. But it was not the case Sept. 3 at Sandra Shen’s Concerts Grand House Recital performance, as her riveting piano playing enthralled the sm...
Chamber
YOUNG MUSICIANS SHINE AT PIANO SONOMA CONCERT
by Lee Ormasa
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
The third in a series of four concerts by Piano Sonoma artists in residence, part of the Vino and Vibrato Series, was held August 1 in Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center. Entitled “The Masters,” the program included works by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. Piano Sonoma is a summer artist-in...
Chamber
THRILLING PROGRAM CLOSES VOM CHAMBER FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, July 30, 2017
The finale of the two-week Valley of the Moon Music Festival closed July 30 with “The Age of Bravura” concert at the Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. The musical selections held to this year’s Festival theme “Schumann’s World - His Music and the Music He Loved.“ This summer Festival features chamber mus...
Chamber
PERIOD INSTRUMENTAL SOUND AT PENULTIMATE VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 30, 2017
In the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival’s penultimate concert July 30 the perennial issue of period and modern instruments was apparent. But only in the concluding Mendelssohn Trio, as the performances in the two first half works easily avoided instrumental comparisons. Clara Schumann’s t...
Chamber
ECLECTIC REPERTOIRE IN FETCHING VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 22, 2017
One of the purposes of summer music festivals is to present unfamiliar music in an attractive and often small audience setting. The Valley of the Moon Music Festival delightfully met these requirements July 22 and 23 with two concerts in the small hall at Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. Classical Sono...
Recital
ADAMS' PHRYGIAN GATES HIGHLIGHTS MORKOSKI FESTIVAL PERFORMANCE
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Attendees at the Molly Morkoski Mendocino Music Festival recital July 22 were in for a treat, both pianistically and if they happened to buy a tasty cookie during intermission. The program included Beethoven’s Op. 27 Moonlight Sonata, Adams’ Phrygian Gates, a surprise add-on of Grieg’s Holberg Suit...
Symphony
SOARING VERDI REQUIEM CLOSES 31ST MENDOCINO FESTIVAL
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
We speak frequently about how there is nothing like the experience of a live performance. Seldom was this truer than at the July 22 closing performance of the two-week Mendocino Music Festival. The Festival Orchestra, conducted by of Allan Pollack, joined with the Festival Chorus in a moving renderi...
Recital
ORGAN REGISTRATION MASTERY HEARD IN WALHAIN'S RECITAL
by Robert Young
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
A group of 65 lucky attendees July 18 had the pleasure of hearing Etienne Walhain’s recital at the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa. Mr. Walhain is organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Tournai, Belgium, and played to a varied program Bach, Franck, and Reger. He used the tonal resource...
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.