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Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
Chamber
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the ...
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...
Recital
PIANISTIC COMMAND IN SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, October 08, 2017
Nikolay Khozyainov’s Oct. 8 debut at the Green Music Center’s Schroeder Hall was one of those rare moments in a young artist’s career when a performance approaches perfection. From the opening notes of Beethoven’s A-Flat Major Sonata (Op. 110) through a delightful recital ending transcription, the ...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Russian River Chamber Music / Friday, September 05, 2008
Rossetti String Quartet

Rossetti String Quartet

WHO'S ON FIRST?

by Steve Osborn
Saturday, September 06, 2008

Inspiration is hard to come by. Abundant proof of that truism was in evidence at the Rossetti String Quartet performance in Healdsburg on Sept. 5, as part of the Russian River Chamber Music (RRCM) series. This talented and accomplished foursome—one of hundreds of such groups currently performing—showed occasional flashes of brilliance but mostly settled for the ordinary.

String quartets are flourishing these days. There are more than a dozen professional quartets in California alone, including not only the Rossetti, but also the St. Lawrence, the Cypress, the Ives and the Alexander—all of whom will be playing in RRCM’s “Made in California” series this season.
With that sort of competition, it’s hard to stand out. Some quartets try to make themselves distinctive through their dress, their stage presence or their repertoire. But what matters most, of course, is their playing.

The Rossetti offered a little bit of all the above, embodied in their burly violist, Thomas Diener. He wore a black shirt with intricate white embroidery culminating in monogrammed cuffs. The fourth finger of his bow hand was beset with an enormous ring that occasionally glinted in the stage lights. He sat straight up in his chair, occupying most of the middle of the quartet, increasing his presence on occasion by rising up out of his seat or leaning over to gaze at his neighboring cellist or second violinist.

As to the repertoire, it ranged only from the standard (Mozart and Beethoven) to the tamely modern (Bernard Hermann and Astor Piazzola). Within these somewhat narrow confines, great playing has to carry the day.

That appeared to be the case with the opening Mozart, K. 387, the first of the six quartets dedicated to Haydn. The musicians began by looking at each other, and they continued to do so throughout the quartet, exchanging glances and flashing smiles, many of them directed at violinist Tereza Stanislav, the only female in the group.

This interaction was reflected in the playing, with precise attention to individual lines, well-executed crescendos, and adroit phrasing. Henry Gronnier, playing first violin, had a bright sound that led the way. His shifting, however, was often too abrupt, impeding his fluidity. Stanislav, at second, exhibited a warm tone, and cellist Eric Gaenslen provided a rock-solid lower voice. One of the high points came in the second movement, when Gaenslen sustained a single note, aided and abetted by the violist, Diener, who leaned closer and closer as the note increased in volume and effect.

K. 387 is filled with extremes of emotion, from the bright opening movement, to the graceful Menuetto of the second, to the profound depths of the Andante cantabile third—all capped by the utter joyousness of the final Molto allegro. The Rossetti proved sympathetic to Mozart’s emotional states, and the resulting performance offered a glimpse of this beloved composer’s true genius.

After this promising beginning, violinists Gronnier and Stanislav switched chairs to play “Echoes” by Bernard Herrmann, the 20th-century American composer best known for his Alfred Hitchcock film scores. The main echo seemed to be of Herrmann’s movie work: “Echoes” sounded for all the world like background music to a suspenseful romance.

The affair began with simple two-note phrases, either ascending or descending. The phrases gradually evolved into triplets and then into an ostinato (repeated) figure, a classic tension-builder for thrillers. The work progressed in this fashion at a leisurely pace, not so much from movement to movement as from scene to scene. We got the moonlit evening on the beach, the meaningful pizzicato footsteps and finally the ponticello (playing near the bridge) tremolo, suggestive of pending denouement.

In contrast to the Mozart, the Rossetti kept pretty much to themselves during “Echoes,” their eyes fixed on their scores. The lack of interaction may have been caused by the switch in violinists, or perhaps by their unfamiliarity with the work. In any event, the performance suffered, making “Echoes” sound even more formulaic than it already was.

Stanislav continued as first violinist in the Beethoven Op. 18, No. 3, which opened the second half. She is an accomplished violinist with fluid fingering and elegant bowing, but she sits so erect and immobile in her chair that she looks like a statue with moving arms. Her playing is flawless but austere, and her eyes are riveted on the score. The net result of all these characteristics is a lack of emotional intensity and interaction with her fellow players.

All the notes of the Beethoven were there, but the performance never really took off, except for a brief flash of brilliance in the closing Presto.

Matters improved somewhat when Gronnier returned to first violin for Piazzola’s “Tango Ballet.” What he lacks in finesse he makes up for in feeling. Parts of the tango really began to swing, and the players started eyeing their partners once again.

The final swoosh of a tango would have made a good ending to the concert, but the Rossetti elected to play an encore: a slow movement from one of Charles Gounod’s nearly forgotten string quartets. The immobile Stanislav was again on first violin, but the French composer’s operatic melodies seemed to suit her better than the Beethoven. She even began to sway.

In the end, the game of musical chairs in the violin section seemed to sum up the Rossetti’s difficulties. They have the talent, but they haven’t yet figured out how to make a consistently inspiring sound.