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Opera
SPARKLING CIMAROSA OPERA HIGHLIGHTS MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kathryn Stewart
Friday, July 13, 2018
The Classical music era was a time of extraordinary innovation. Dominated by composers from the German-speaking countries, the period witnessed the handiwork of masterpieces by two classical giants, Haydn and Mozart. Both composers put forth a tremendous catalog of masterful works and perhaps to our...
Symphony
!PURA VIDA! A SONIC TRIUMPH FOR SO CO PHIL IN THRILLING COSTA RICA TOUR CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Long anticipated events, such as a great sporting game, gourmet feast, holiday trip or a concert, occasionally fall way short of expectations. The results don’t measure to expectations. With the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Costa Rica concert June 19, the performance exceeded any heated or tenuou...
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...
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.