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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...
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...
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...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Parker Quartet / Friday, February 15, 2013
Daniel Chong and David McCarroll, violin;
Jessica Bodner, viola; Kee-Hyun Kim, cello

Parker String Quartet

SOLID GOLD FROM THE PARKER STRING QUARTET

by Steve Osborn
Friday, February 15, 2013

Santa Rosa has been blessed with three superlative chamber music concerts during the past month, beginning with the Calder String Quartet in late January, followed by the Alexander String Quartet with violist Toby Appel in early February, and culminating with the Parker String Quartet one day after Valentine's Day. Choosing among the three ensembles is a difficult task, but I think the gold would ultimately go to the Parker, which proved itself capable of playing even the most difficult music with precision and élan.

Sadly, the Glaser Center in downtown Santa Rosa was only about half full for the Grammy-winning Parkers, but that didn't seem to dampen the musicians' or the audience's enthusiasm. All four members of the quartet, each one more youthful than the other, played as if on fire from the opening note to the last. The opening work, appropriately enough, was from the ever-youthful Mozart, one of his six "Milanese" quartets, written when he was a teenager. This one, K. 156, is in G Major.

The inner voices in the quartet--second violinist David McCarroll and violist Jessica Bodner--instantly established themselves as a force to be reckoned with, playing out their lines in equipoise with their outer brethren: first violinist Daniel Chong and cellist Kee-Hyun Kim. (During the current season, Mr. McCarroll is replacing regular second violinist Karen Kim, who is on sabbatical.) As is often the case with Mozart, the slow movement was the most riveting section, and the Parker played it as if it were one of the composer's mature works, bringing out its exquisite lines and delicate counterpoint.

In brief remarks after the Mozart, Mr. McCarroll said he was glad to be home (he grew up in Sonoma County) and that the just-played quartet and the Dvorak quartet to come in the second half were relatively obscure works. The true center of the program, according to him, was the impending Debussy string quartet, a fixture in the repertoire since its premiere in 1893. The performance that followed demonstrated not only why the Debussy has become canonic, but also how much more this masterpiece still has to offer.

To hear the Parker play the Debussy quartet was nothing short of a revelation. In the first movement all the familiar lines and turns of phrase took on new meaning when played with such precision and understanding. The playing was assured from the opening measures, when opulent legatos gave way to sharply articulated retakes (repeated down-bows). Words such as "flawless," "lapidary" and "impeccable" can only begin to describe the seamless blending, the sudden dynamic changes and the emotive playing, particularly from Mr. Chong.

Ms. Bodner took center stage in the second movement, playing all 13 iterations of her 13-note phrase as if each was a distinct event. In contrast to Mr. Chong's emotive swaying, she held herself aloof, letting her fingers dance across her instrument of their own accord. Her tone was absolutely gorgeous. The movement, marked "lively and rhythmic," seemed to float above the earth like a scudding cloud, with sudden thunder from the cello adding a touch of drama.

The slow third movement continued the gorgeous sound, and here again Mr. Chong captivated the audience as he sang out his expressive lines. When the final movement began, one could only sit back and be entranced by the sparkling musicianship from all four corners of the stage. The ending came all too soon.

Dvorak and Debussy both begin with the same letter, but there the similarity more or less ends. Debussy was a musical revolutionary, but Dvorak was content to use the existing forms and imbue them with his own optimistic style. His eleventh string quartet in C Major, Opus 61, closely resembles his dozen or so other quartets, with an Allegro opening movement, an Adagio second, a minuet-style third and a Vivace conclusion. The melodies are bright and open, and the feeling is often happy and buoyant.

There was absolutely nothing wrong with the Dvorak, but it sounded tame in comparison with the Debussy. Dvorak's technique is more limited, his imagination less captivating. Nonetheless, the performance was exhilarating. Mr. Chong drove forward with breathtaking speed; Mr. McCarroll sang out whenever the opportunity presented; Ms. Bodner reveled in the many viola solos (Dvorak was a violist); and cellist Kim provided a rock-solid foundation throughout. They were as much fun to watch as they were to hear.

At the end, the only regret was that more people weren't there to hear this magnificent group, which had been brought to town through the auspices of the Redwood Arts Council. The Glaser Center is an excellent venue for chamber music, and it's centrally located, with plenty of parking. There's even a friendly lobby with food and drink during intermission. What's not to like?