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Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago ďGolden EraĒ of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didnít play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuberís work to the publicís attention, and now it seems to be on almost every...
Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the seasonís final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopolís Community Church, as the performers...
Chamber
TRIO NAVARRO'S POPULAR FARE IN SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 08, 2018
Long time Classical Sonoma readers may recall many Trio Navarro concert reviews that lauded their virtuosity and interest in rarely played repertoire. The April 8 concert in Schroeder Hall before 85 chamber music fans featured sterling performances but had a mostly conservative menu of popular trio...
Recital
KENNER'S ALL POLISH RECITAL HAS PADEREWSKI RARITY
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, April 08, 2018
Kevin Kennerís April 8 recital at Dominican Universityís Angelico Hall had been advertised as all-Chopin, but he added a detour into another seminal Polish composer-pianist, Paderewski. Several of Mr. Kennerís teachers were Poles, he speaks Polish, and he navigated at the piano both composersí deman...
Symphony
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE VOICE AT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, April 08, 2018
In an April 8 Santa Rosa Symphony concert filled to the brim with instruments--electric violin, vibraphone, marimba, xylophone, glockenspiel, keyboard samplers, harps, piano and myriad drums, gongs and bells, to say nothing of winds, brass and strings--the instrument that came out on top was the hum...
Chamber
VOM FESTIVAL TRIO CHARMS WITH CHAMBER MIX, AND HUMMEL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, March 31, 2018
At the core of the group of Valley of the Moon Music Festival (VOM) musicians is an ensemble of trios and duos, and as a trio March 31 Festival founders cellist Tanya Tomkins and pianist Eric Zivian joined British violinist Monica Huggett for a chamber music concert in the Green Music Centerís Schro...
Choral and Vocal
GOOD FRIDAY REQUIEM FILLS INCARNATION
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 30, 2018
Maurice Duruflťís short and intense Requiem has been heard in Santa Rosaís Church of the Incarnation before, but the March 30 Good Friday performance was stripped down in the number of performers, combining Cantiamo Sonoma and the St. Cecilia Choir with musical underpinning from organist Robert Youn...
Symphony
HAMELIN'S HUSKY MOOD IN SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 25, 2018
Convention in piano recitals has the artist coming on stage and playing. Canadian pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin walked on Schroeder Hallís stage March 25 and didnít play for six minutes, chatting with the audience. A risk for some artists. Then most programs include a contemporary or rarely play...
Recital
VIRTUOSIC VARIATIONS IN MORGAN'S SCHROEDER ORGAN RECITAL
by Paul Blanchard
Sunday, March 18, 2018
Organist Robert Huw Morganís artistry spun through the web of early variation form in a Mar. 18 recital on Schroeder Hallís wonderful Brombaugh organ. Mr. Morgan, Stanford Universityís resident organist, performs a wide range of repertoire, but as he said in comments to the audience, he loves when h...
RECITAL REVIEW
Sonoma Classical Music Society / Sunday, February 09, 2014
Alexander String Quartet

Alexander String Quartet

IMPECCABLE BEETHOVEN FROM THE ALEXANDER STRING QUARTET

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 09, 2014

In the classical music world, snazzy innovation and music puffery catch the headlines, but there is always a role for an instrumental group with long experience and impeccable artistic integrity. The Alexander String Quartet's Feb. 9 concert in the Sonoma Classical Chamber Music Series proved that decades of performance excellence could make an all-Beethoven program seem as familiar and cozy as an old house slipper.

Before a packed Vintage House audience, the Alexander opened with the 1798 C Minor Quartet, Op. 18, No. 4, and gave a svelte and polished reading throughout. There was a uniform blending of sound, with the high-ceiling room favoring cellist Sandy Wilson's cello sound and a desired reverberation time of just under one-half a second. In the second movement (Andante Scherzoso) first violinist Zakarias Grafilo played often with a spiccato bow, and the ensemble was perfection. The dark drama of the Menuetto was played to highlight the piquant harmonies, and the finale was a whirling dance, the Quartet alternating the major and minor keys to a "gypsy" effect. The pizzicato playing was exemplary.

Beethoven's last completed Quartet, Op. 135, closed the first half. Playing in the first movement was insistent but never forceful, the long ascending phrases not melodic but strongly rhythmic. In the tranquil Lento, a peaceful aura was created, the top violin and bottom cello lines surrounding the floating inner voices. Time seem to stop at the end. Though the sharp opening of the finale with themes played in unison was dramatic, the piece's cohesion was palpable. It was a magical performance.

Beethoven's middle-period E Minor Quartet (Op. 59, No. 2) closed the afternoon in a faultless performance where subtle volume changes appeared in each of the four movements. This deftly proportioned playing was never rushed and emphasized long, singing lines. Mr. Grafilo played a section in the Adagio where soft ascending and descending notes were perfectly graded, and Mr. Wilson ended the movement with a long downward phrase of delicacy and finality.

The Presto finale had a wonderful interplay of contrapuntal voices, often beginning with the second violin, and then to violist Paul Yarbrough and the cello and first violin. It was often fast and tenacious playing, jolly and then pushy, with virtuoso work from Mr. Grafilo.

As the West Coast's premier string quartet, the Alexander has appeared in seven of the Sonoma Society's ten seasons, and clearly artistic experience pays rich dividends.