Home  Reviews  Articles  Calendar  Presenters  Add Event     
Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now they seem to be on almost ever...
Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the season’s final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church, as the performers...
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.