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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...
BEETHOVEN'S VALENTINE'S DAY GIFT IN RAC SEBASTOPOL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, February 14, 2020
Continuing a season of Redwood Arts Council successes, the Kouzov Duo performed an eclectic Valentine’s Day concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church before an audience of 125. Beethoven’s charming Op. 66 Variations on Mozart’s “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from the opera the Magic Flute was a bouncy ...
LUSH BACH PERFORMANCE IN DENK'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 13, 2020
Memorable artistic interpretations of musical masterpieces are often at extremes, and with the Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (WTC - Book I) that Jeremy Denk played in Weill Hall Feb. 13, the pianist was only sporadically at unique or ebullient musical ends. But his playing wasn’t exactly at opposite...
CHORAL AND VOCAL REVIEW
American Bach Soloists / Friday, January 24, 2014
Jeffrey Thomas, director. Amereican Bach Choir. Clara Rottsolk, soprano; Eric Jurenas, countertenor; Guy Cutting, tenor; William Sharp, baritone; Sandra Miller, flute

Flutist Sandra Miller

PERFECT BACH IN BELVEDERE

by Terry McNeill
Friday, January 24, 2014

Perfection in classical concert performance is a tough job, especially on a consistent basis. The redoubtable American Bach Soloists (ABS), however, manage to reach musical perfection often, and they did it again Jan. 24 in a sterling event in Belvedere's St. Stephen's Church.

Beginning their 25th season, and before a full house of 285, music director Jeffrey Thomas fashioned a long Bach program: two Cantatas, the B Minor Orchestral Suite and the wonderful Magnificat, BWV 1733. Before Cantata 214 Tönet. Ihr Pauken! Erschallet, Trompeten! Mr. Thomas addressed the audience, praising their many decades of support and introducing four orchestra and three audience members who had been with the ABS since its 1989 inception in the same church. Five hundred musicians and singers had been ABS performers during the period.

The first cantata was joyous, the baroque trumpets (stationed stage left outside the violins) announcing the theme in the famously dry but mostly clear St. Stephen's acoustics. All through the Cantata the continuo line by harpsichordist Cory Jamason, cellist William Skeen and violone-grossist Steven Lehning were easily heard. In the lighter textured third section, soprano Clara Rottsolk sang a lovely florid line with flutist Sandra Miller.

Countertenor Eric Jurenas sang the difficult fifth section aria in a duet with oboist John Abberger, and later sections featured baritone William Sharp. Mr. Jurenas' flashy long runs with equally long breaths were exciting, and Mr. Sharp's voice often became an animated herald with bits of histrionics and then slow dignity.

The First Orchestral Suite (BWV 1067), which closed the first half, is not quite a concerto for flute, but after experiencing Sandra Miller's artistry, the term "virtuoso flute concerto" is apt. Baroque flutes are less shrill and loud than a transverse flute, and Ms. Miller played with a silken tone throughout the seven short movements. The violins, using minimal or zero vibrato, often take tones from slightly above pitch, adding to the pungent harmonic mix. In the stately Polonaise Lentement march movement, Ms. Miller's control of long lines, mordents and octave skips was masterful, especially so in duets with Mr. Skeen and Mr. Jamason. The finale found the flute mostly in the high register; the expressive music had quick down and up four-note phrases that could be likened to a horse trot. Mr. Thomas as usual had these forces in balance and under expert control.

Cantata No. 130, Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir, began majestically with Mr. Thomas underscoring the off-beat accents and moving it at a fast clip. Excellent playing and singing continued into the third section (Mr. Sharp's snazzy long phrases but muddy trumpet playing in ascending scales), Mr. Cutting's suave singing and a lovely slow dance in the fifth part. Here the conductor held his arms at his side and presumably reveled in the quartet sound of flute, cello, organ and violone grosso pizzicato. It was captivating and a highlight of the evening. The penultimate chorus included an audience sing-along with the familiar "For this we give the willing praise" (Praise God for whom).

The 30-minute Magnificat closed the concert. Here the 22-voice chorus was superb, blending with the instruments and supplying a beautiful soprano-mezzo soprano duet lament with a mournful oboe solo in the third section. Mr. Thomas commanded many subtle crescendos. Of note throughout the work were Mr. Sharp's fioratura and perfect scales, an aching musical cry in a tenor and countertenor duet, and a surprising fugue for just the chorus and organ just before the finale.

This was musical perfection for Bach, augmented by the many small but important things the ABS does so well: personal names printed on tickets, a lavish printed program crammed with information and a refreshing lack of puffery, and the now legendary gratis intermission buffet in the architecturally stylish parish hall. It was a Bach concert that was in every way impeccable.

Early music performer and critic Joanna Bramel Young attended the ABS concert and her comments are posted in the Article section of Classical Sonoma