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Symphony
MENDELSSOHN'S SCOTTISH SAVES THE EVENING IN SRS WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Monday, February 11, 2019
The audience entering Weill Hall for Santa Rosa Symphony concerts Feb. 9-11 were presented with a program that on first glance appeared a curious patchwork – a great symphony mixed with a seldom heard concerto and two disparate overtures, and a guest conductor unknown locally. Monday night’s concer...
Recital
INTRIGUING BELL-HAYWOOD RECITAL BEFORE FULL HOUSE IN WEILL HALL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, February 08, 2019
A big portion of the capacity audience in Weill Hall February 8th came to hear violinist Joshua Bell’s virtuosity, and were treated as well to splendid playing from Sam Haywood, Mr. Bell’s regular pianist since 2010. The duo performed three engaging sonatas, highlighted by Mr. Bell’s sterling techn...
Symphony
TRIPLE PLAY UKIAH SYMPHONY CONCERT AND TCHAIKOVSKY SERENADE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Over the years the Ukiah Symphony’s concerts have been in the Classical Sonoma Calendar sections, but rarely has this Orchestra, now in its 39th season, had a full winter season concert review. The provocative Jan. 27 program in Mendocino College’s Center Theater seemed a good reason to reacquaint ...
Symphony
JACKSON THEATER WELCOMES A NEW RESIDENT ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Moving to a permanent new performance venue can be a perilous undertaking for an orchestra, with different acoustics, the loyal audience finding the new spot and infrastructure challenges of lighting and lobby and backstage operations. In their first concert Jan. 26 in Windsor’s Jackson Theater the...
Symphony
ECLECTIC PASSIONATE PROGRAMMING AT MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 26, 2019
The Marin Symphony’s second Masterworks concert of the 2018-19 season featured works by John Adams, Sibelius and Brahms, a masterful assembly. In a spoken introduction before the program’s first half, conductor Alasdair Neale primed the audience for the “terra incognita” of Adams’ The Chairman Dance...
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...
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.