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Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s Sonoma Overt...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
Chamber
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, perfor...
Symphony
AMERICAN CLASSICS SPARKLE UNDER KAHANE’S BATON
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Jeffrey Kahane, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s former conductor, returned to the Weill Hall podium on Saturday night, and the results were expectedly wonderful. The concert of American classics was by turns playful (Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”), emotional (Barber’s violin concerto) and triumphant (...
Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
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.