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Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
Chamber
UNEXPECTED ARENSKY AND MENDELSSOHN BY THE NAVARRO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
The 100 people entering Schroeder Hall Feb. 17 for a Trio Navarro concert were handed a program that appeared to feature two popular piano trios, Mendelssohn and Arensky. But continuing the Navarro’s tradition of repertoire exploration, the pieces were not the usual first Mendelssohn and first Aren...
Recital
GLOVER'S ECLECTIC PROGRAMMING HIGHLIGHT'S CINNABAR RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
Daniel Glover is arguably the busiest virtuoso pianist in the San Francisco Bay area, but rarely is heard in North Bay concerts. So 90 local pianophiles were anxious to hear him Feb. 17 in Petaluma’s charming small Cinnabar Theater, and they were rewarded with an eclectic program of sometimes unfam...
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...
CHAMBER REVIEW
MasterCard Performance Series / Sunday, October 27, 2013
Takác String Quartet: Edward Dusinberre and Károly Schranz,violin; Geraldine Walther,viola; András Fejér,cello. Erika Eckert, viola and Scott Pingel, bass

Takács String Quartet

FROM HUNGARY WITH LOVE

by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 27, 2013

The United States is blessed to have dozens of great string quartets in residence, from the upstart Parker, to the mid-career Emerson, to the venerable Guarneri. Few if any of the greats, however, can surpass the Takács String Quartet, which emigrated to the United States from Hungary in 1983 and has been dazzling American audiences ever since.

Currently in residence at the University of Colorado, the quartet has been playing regularly at Cal Performances for many years, and now they have added the Green Music Center in Rohnert Park to their list of stops. Given their performance at the GMC's Weill Hall on Oct. 27, one can only hope they'll return as soon as possible. They were magnificent.

The sight that greeted the audience from the Weill Hall stage was a bit unusual: five chairs instead of the usual four, and a pair of microphones in the middle. The chairs were easily explained, since the Takács was playing quintets, but the microphones remained a mystery until intermission, when one of the GMC's artistic directors explained that they were for people with assisted listening devices, not for amplification.

If ever a group didn't need amplification, it's the Takács. All their players, plus their quintet guests, projected a warm, confident sound, easily filling Weill Hall with sonic glory. The GMC had wisely decided to restrict ticket sales to the ground floor, which was nearly full, and the sound bloomed unobstructed overhead.

Leading the pack was cellist András Fejér, a curly haired benevolent gnome who seemed to meld with his instrument and to center the group. His tone was deep, rich and gorgeous, an unburied treasure for all to hear. His Hungarian compatriot on second violin, Károly Schranz, featured a mop of white hair and a playing style that bordered on the frenetic, constantly bobbing back and forth in time with the music.

Fejér and Schranz are the sole remaining members of the original quartet, founded in 1975. In recent years they have been joined by the restrained but impeccable British violinist Edward Dusinberre and local favorite Geraldine Walther, the former principal violist of the San Francisco Symphony. The changes have been seamless, and all four play together as if they'd been practicing for decades.

Not only was the Takács glorious, but their program was one of a kind: two rarely heard Dvorák quintets, one with an added bass and one with an extra viola. Coming from opposite ends of Dvorák's long career, the quintets display his evolution as a composer, moving from classic European forms to an open American sound.

The bass quintet is one of Dvorák's earliest works, arriving just after his meteoric rise to fame on the strength of his "Slavonic Dances." The work is classic in many respects, from the motivic development of the first movement, to the dance figures of the second, to the rollicking rondo of the finale. It's hard to understand why Dvorák added the bass, which mostly just doubles the cello line; but it does provide some added heft and distinction--How many bass quintets can you name?

Throughout the performance, the Takács and bassist Scott Pingel moved freely but in perfect unison. Dvorák really knows how to hand off melodies, and certain themes moved around the quintet like electric current, flowing from one set of fingers to the next. Of the many transcendent moments, the cello solos in the luscious Andante were the most memorable.

After intermission, the focus shifted to the violas, which doubled in strength thanks to the addition of Erika Eckert, one of the Takács's fellow faculty at the University of Colorado. She opened the unfamiliar "American" quintet (not to be confused with the ubiquitous "American" quartet composed around the same time) with a lovely solo, virtually announcing that the work would dwell on the middle instruments.

Like its famous cousin, the "American" quintet is heavily influenced by Dvorák's famous sojourn in the United States. The first movement is replete with American folk tunes, the second sounds like a barn dance, the third like a church service on the High Plains, and the last like an ebullient outpouring of New World optimism.

Even though she didn't get the opening solo, Geraldine Walther was the absolute star of the quintet, with her soaring tone and compelling lines resonating throughout all four movements. Her solo in the second, with its distinctive quintuplet rhythms, was particularly gripping; while that of the third settled into a luxuriant hymn. Not to be outdone, her plucking duet with Eckert in the finale was a model of rhythmic intensity.

The ovation was long and sustained, but sadly there was no encore--unless the GMC brings them back.