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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...
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.