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MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
RECITAL REVIEW
MasterCard Performance Series / Saturday, September 21, 2013
Itzhak Perlman, violin. Rohan De Silva, piano

Violinist Itzhak Perlman

ITZHAK PERLMAN: HIGH VOLTAGE VIRTUOSO

by Steve Osborn
Saturday, September 21, 2013

Weill Hall at the Green Music Center in Rohnert Park is actually two halls: one inside the graceful building and one outside on the amphitheater-shaped lawn. The two connect at the back of the hall, where giant panels can be slid open to bring the outdoors in and the indoors out.

Perhaps the best view of this dual identity is to be had from the "choral circle," two or more rows of seats that encircle the sides and front of the hall. The seats on the sides face forward, so you can pan back and forth between the lawn and the stage, as if watching a tennis match.

This dual identity is visually striking, but it does lead to an important sonic challenge: how to transmit the sound outside while preserving the acoustics within. The answer at this point seems to be amplification in both spaces, as was made abundantly clear in the opening notes of Itzhak Perlman's Sept. 21 recital at Weill. For the first few bars of the opening piece, Beethoven's Violin Sonata No. 1, the sound of the violin within the hall rang out impossibly loud. The culprit was a discrete black microphone positioned a few feet in front of Perlman, who was seated in an electric wheelchair. A few seconds later, a hidden technician turned down the volume, and the violin assumed a more normal acoustic relationship with the piano, which was also miked.

For the purists in the audience, the illusion of unadulterated sound was shattered, but some acoustic compromises seem inevitable, given the nature of the space. In any event, Perlman's playing soon put all those issues to rest. He would be just as beguiling on an electric violin as on a Stradivarius.

All his fundamental qualities were on display in the Beethoven: a muscular sound marked by extreme fluidity, exquisite bowing, nearly perfect intonation, well-controlled dynamics and maximum expression. His many runs up and down the fingerboard were flawless, played as gently as the breeze wafting in from the lawn.

In the slow second movement of the Beethoven, a classic theme and variations, Perlman let the tune ring out and then made each variation utterly distinctive, from strident to sweet to majestic. His able accompanist, Rohan De Silva, led off the third movement vivaciously, striking the unexpected sforzandi to dramatic effect. Perlman echoed those surprises, then added some of his own, imbuing Beethoven's sonata with great narrative urgency.

That same sense of a master storyteller emerged in the next work, Grieg's Violin Sonata No. 3, his last and most popular sonata. This uber-Romantic work is just a few notes shy of being a full-blown concerto, particularly in the last movement, with its familiar call-and-response format. The opening movement has a strong sense of foreboding, with a repeated seven-note phrase punctuating the texture like an insistent Morse code. Perlman's bowing for this phrase was incredibly supple, shifting seamlessly from long notes to staccato bursts.

The dreamlike second movement, with its slow, heartbreaking melody, set the stage for the rollicking finale, replete with folk dances and virtuosic displays. Perlman really inhabited the sonata, displaying supreme confidence throughout its performance.

With those two full-fledged sonatas under his belt, Perlman opened the second half of the show with Kreisler's arrangement of Baroque composer Tartini's "Devil's Trill" sonata. The arrangement probably makes historically informed performers cringe, but it's a lot of fun, with incessant double-stops, portamento galore, and the obsessive finger-twisting trills of the title. By the climax, the melody is buried beneath such a thick layer of trills that the violin sounds like an entire orchestra.

Perlman followed the Tartini-Kreisler with two more Kreisler arrangements of obscure Baroque and Classical composers, first from Giovanni Martini and then from Francois Francoeur, whom he described as a "legend in his own home." Both were sonic baubles based on simple melodies.

Next came Tchaikovsky's "Chanson sans parole," which Perlman joked had been written for a friend of the composer's stuck in prison. This was somewhat meatier musically, with a charming lyric theme and some effective harmonics at the end. A Caprice by Henryk Wieniawski followed, again arranged by Kreisler, this time with bowing so rapid that Perlman's wrist fluttered like a bird's wing.

The program proper concluded with Brahms' "Hungarian Dance No. 1," as arranged by Joachim. Here Perlman set a furious pace with lots of rubato and some upper-position work that got a little dodgy toward the end. The encore, after thunderous applause, was Antonio Bazzini's "Dance of the Goblins," a showpiece to end all showpieces. The technical demands are almost beyond belief, but Perlman appeared unfazed as his fingers flew across the violin, each one apparently in several places at once. It would have been electrifying even without the microphone.

[Reprinted by permission of San Francisco Classical Voice.]