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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...
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.