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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...
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...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
Symphony
PEACE AND LOVE FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 04, 2018
Before the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 4 performance of Leonard Bernstein’s “Symphonic Dances from West Side Story,” Symphony CEO Alan Silow took a moment to acknowledge the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack and to observe that music offers a more peaceful and loving view of the world. Mr. ...
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.