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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
ATOS TRIO IN MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 04, 2018
When the ATOS Piano Trio planned their all-Russian touring program at their Berlin home base, it had a strong elegiac, even tragic theme that surely resonated with their Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience Nov. 4 in Mill Valley. Comprised of Annette von Hehn, violin; Thomas Hoppe, piano; and...
Chamber
ATOS TRIO IN OCCIDENTAL CHAMBER CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 03, 2018
When the Berlin-based ATOS Piano Trio entered the cramped Occidental Performing Arts stage Nov. 3, the audience of 100 anticipated familiar works in the announced all-Russian program. What they got was a selection of rarely-plays trios, with a gamut of emotions. Then one-movement Rachmaninoff G Mi...
Symphony
MIGHTY SHOSTAKOVICH 10TH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 28, 2018
Just two works were on the opening program of the Marin Symphony’s 67th season Oct. 28, Tchaikovsky’s iconic D Major Violin Concerto, and Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony. Before a full house in the Marin Center Auditorium conductor Alasdair Neale set a judicious opening tempo in the brief orchestra i...
Symphony
VIVALDI FOR ALL SEASONS IN WEILL BAROQUE CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, October 27, 2018
The Venice Baroque Orchestra, a dozen superb musicians that include strings, harpsichord and recorder, played an uplifting concert Oct. 27 of mostly Vivaldi sinfonias and concertos. The Weill Hall audience of 600 had rapt attention throughout, and the playing was of the highest musical level. This r...
Recital
LIN'S PIANISM AND PERSONA CHARM SCHROEDER HALL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 21, 2018
In somewhat of a surprise a sold out Schroeder Hall audience greeted pianist Steven Lin Oct. 21 in his local debut recital. Why a surprise? Because Mr. Lin was pretty much unknown in Northern California, and Schroeder is rarely, very rarely sold out for a single instrumentalist. But no matter, and...
Chamber
HEROIC TRUMPET AND ORGAN MUSIC AT INCARNATION
by Jerry Dibble
Friday, October 12, 2018
The strong connections between Santa Rosa’s musical community and California State University Chico were on display Oct. 12 as David Rothe, Professor Emeritus in the Chico Music Department, and Ayako Nakamura, trumpet with the North State Symphony, presented a concert titled “Heroic Music for Trumpe...
REVIEW

Baroque Oboist Debra Nagy

STERLING BAROQUE MUSIC PERFORMANCES AT SF CONSERVATORY ABS ACADEMY

by Joanna Bramel Young
Friday, July 12, 2013

The American Bach Soloists are holding their Academy for advanced young musicians July 12 through July 21 that explores early music, along with its annual summer Festival. The combination of the two is providing concerts by ABS, master classes, lecture-demonstrations, and performances by gifted Academy students. Once again the setting is the San Francisco Conservatory.

The initial ABS concert of the Festival July 12 was presented in the sold out Conservatory hall and offered a delightful mixture of works for small ensembles, divided among three seventeenth-century and three eighteenth-century composers. Violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock opened the evening with a charming chaconne, “Sonata Quarta,” by Schmelzer, accompanied by Corey Jamason, harpsichord, and Elizabeth Reed, viola da gamba. The gamba began alone on a simple descending four-note passage (characteristic of the chaconne) that was repeated throughout most of the work. The harpsichord then entered and the violin began a set of soaring variations over the repetitive continuo. While Ms. Blumenstock continually changed rhythm, dividing measures into many different note values, the bass line remained the same. Always pushing the envelope (to the delight of the audience) from passionate slow movements to staccato bowings and elaborate divisions, Ms. Blumenstock amazed with her technical precision and the vigor of her interpretation.

In these earlier baroque works, one movement flowed into the next without pause. Often dance-like in quality, these sonatas clearly differ from the high baroque works in which each movement was separated from the next.

To hear the two vocal compositions by Schütz, scored for two basses, was a rare treat. The psalm-based “I have been young, and now am old” calls for accompaniment by two violins and basso continuo, while “Bow your heavens, O Lord, and come down” involves continuo alone. Max van Egmond, bass/baritone, and baritone William Sharp sang expressively and in perfect harmony, obviously enjoying the chance to perform together.

Next on the program was a work by Vivaldi, the Sonata in C Minor for oboe and basso continuo. Debra Nagy, baroque oboist, won the first prize in the 2002 ABS Young Artist Competition, and this reviewer was fortunate enough to witness the discovery that day of a talent more than ready to occupy a chair with ABS. The baroque oboe is a fiendishly difficult instrument to master, having only one key (for the bottom hole) and requiring many awkward cross fingerings for the complex music written for it. For instance, Vivaldi composed this sonata for a virtuoso oboist in the Dresden court orchestra. Ms. Nagy enjoys full command of her instrument and she played with an elegance and purity of tone that one rarely hears. The last movement was in a quick 6/8 tempo, and Nagy negotiated the tortuous phrases brilliantly.

After intermission the audience was treated to the Telemann Cantata “No bird can in distant flight exceed the eagle in soaring to heights,” entreating the listener to use the gifts he has, not to “bury” them. Alto Judith Malafronte sang with great grace and conviction, tastefully accompanied in the da capo arias by baroque flutist Sandra Miller. The baroque flute, or flauto traverso, is like the baroque oboe extremely difficult to master, and Ms. Miller is justly considered one of the finest performers of her generation.

The bird theme was continued with Biber’s charming A Major sonata. Each movement in this work for violin and basso continuo was named after a bird or animal: Nightingale, CuCu, Frog, Cock and Hen, Quail and Cat. The sonata closed with a Musketeer’s March and finally an Allemande. Violinist Robert Mealy was well supported by Mr. Jamason and cellist William Skeen. This amusing piece was intended to be a crowd-pleaser, and Mr. Mealy’s superb technique brought each of the animals to life. He would look at the audience now and then with a wry smile as he played a perfect frog, using dissonant descending, disjointed chords in random rhythm. The hen’s “pe-cock pe-cock” was perfect, and the cat’s “meow” was unmistakable. In the Musketeer’s March the harpsichord and cello became the drums, as the violin played the marching Muskateer’s song. At the end of the movement, the marchers faded into the distance, ending in a pianissimo and diminishing to silence.

Last on the program was the Bach’s Concerto in A Minor for flute, violin, harpsichord, and strings. To this reviewer this captivating piece was really a harpsichord concerto with accompaniment by the other instruments. It could have been the Seventh Brandenburg Concerto if Bach had written seven. Mr. Jamason finally had his chance to show off, as his right hand impeccably shared Bach’s sinuous melodies with the flute and violin. The unaccompanied harpsichord cadenza near the end of the piece shimmered in a cascade of notes.

The evening was an absolute delight, given the variety of instruments and voices and the level of performance. This reviewer looks forward to Handel’s oratorio “Esther” which will be performed July 19 by the American Bach Choir, soloists, and the Academy Orchestra.

The ABS presents concerts in Belvedere's St. Stephen's Church Dec. 14, Jan. 24, Feb. 21 and Apr. 25.