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Chamber
UNEXPECTED ARENSKY AND MENDELSSOHN BY THE NAVARRO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
The 100 people entering Schroeder Hall Feb. 17 for a Trio Navarro concert were handed a program that appeared to feature two popular piano trios, Mendelssohn and Arensky. But continuing the Navarro’s tradition of repertoire exploration, the pieces were not the usual first Mendelssohn and first Aren...
Symphony
MENDELSSOHN'S SCOTTISH SAVES THE EVENING IN SRS WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Monday, February 11, 2019
The audience entering Weill Hall for Santa Rosa Symphony concerts Feb. 9-11 were presented with a program that on first glance appeared a curious patchwork – a great symphony mixed with a seldom heard concerto and two disparate overtures, and a guest conductor unknown locally. Monday night’s concer...
Recital
INTRIGUING BELL-HAYWOOD RECITAL BEFORE FULL HOUSE IN WEILL HALL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, February 08, 2019
A big portion of the capacity audience in Weill Hall February 8th came to hear violinist Joshua Bell’s virtuosity, and were treated as well to splendid playing from Sam Haywood, Mr. Bell’s regular pianist since 2010. The duo performed three engaging sonatas, highlighted by Mr. Bell’s sterling techn...
Symphony
TRIPLE PLAY UKIAH SYMPHONY CONCERT AND TCHAIKOVSKY SERENADE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Over the years the Ukiah Symphony’s concerts have been in the Classical Sonoma Calendar sections, but rarely has this Orchestra, now in its 39th season, had a full winter season concert review. The provocative Jan. 27 program in Mendocino College’s Center Theater seemed a good reason to reacquaint ...
Symphony
JACKSON THEATER WELCOMES A NEW RESIDENT ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Moving to a permanent new performance venue can be a perilous undertaking for an orchestra, with different acoustics, the loyal audience finding the new spot and infrastructure challenges of lighting and lobby and backstage operations. In their first concert Jan. 26 in Windsor’s Jackson Theater the...
Symphony
ECLECTIC PASSIONATE PROGRAMMING AT MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 26, 2019
The Marin Symphony’s second Masterworks concert of the 2018-19 season featured works by John Adams, Sibelius and Brahms, a masterful assembly. In a spoken introduction before the program’s first half, conductor Alasdair Neale primed the audience for the “terra incognita” of Adams’ The Chairman Dance...
Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Marin Symphony / Tuesday, January 22, 2013

ARMSTRONG'S BRUCH CONCERTO TRIUMPHS IN MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT

by John Metz
Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A concert entitled “Romantic Passions” promises a big orchestra, epic works, sweeping melodies, emotional excess, and the spirit of heroism. The Marin Symphony delivered on this promise January 22 in a Marin Center Auditorium winter season gala.

Two works of Russian Romanticism framed the program, beginning with Glinka’s Overture to Ruslan and Ludmilla and ending with Tchaikovsky’s consummate “Pathétique” Symphony in B Minor, Op. 74. And while the centerpiece of the program, Bruch’s Violin Concerto in G minor, was not Russian, the evening’s soloist from Sonoma had reached international acclaim as the fourth prizewinner in the most recent International Tchaikovsky Competition. Violinist Nigel Armstrong was without a doubt the center of attention in the hall.

Mr. Armstrong brought remarkable skills to the Bruch: a rich and colorful tone quality, flawless intonation, virtuosic flair, a commanding stage presence and delicate sensitivity when the music required it. Double stops of thirds and octaves abound in the concerto and Mr. Armstrong plays these with such ease and clarity that, if you weren’t watching, you might think two violinists were playing.

The pathos of the opening Vorspiel (Prelude) exhibits the composer’s undeniable gift for melody and in Mr. Armstrong’s hands the dramatic themes and sweeping lines flowed naturally and effortlessly. In the intimate second movement the violinist’s delicate and heartfelt pianissimos drew in the attention of the audience. Following the heroic finale, which despite its technical challenges was a breeze for Mr. Armstrong, the audience offered a standing ovation. And it wasn’t just the audience who was enthralled with the artist; he had clearly won the admiration of the orchestra members.

The audience wanted more and received an encore of Ysaÿe's G Major Rustic Dance from his Fifth Solo Sonata. This was a magical performance and the rhythmic opening had a crispness that only few violinists achieve. The more nuanced middle section was an exploration of the possibilities of the violin and the violinist. For Mr. Armstrong, the possibilities are endless and we could have listened to him all night.

The program’s opener, the Overture to Ruslan and Ludmilla, contained more impressive string section playing with lightning fast passagework in the violins. Conductor Alasdair Neale took a brisk tempo for this work and the orchestra was up to the task.

The epic Pathétique Symphony is fifty minutes in length with the first movement alone twenty minutes long. After hearing a transcendent performance of the Bruch violin concerto, the audience’s expectations had risen. No, we couldn’t expect the Symphony to wow us in the same way that Nigel Armstrong had, but we knew we were in store for something special, and this was a gripping and well-executed performance of a quintessential piece. But in the context of the entire program, it was a mere afterthought to Mr. Armstrong’s playing of Bruch’ melancholic masterpiece.