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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...
RECITAL REVIEW
Sonoma Classical Music Society / Sunday, February 9, 2014
Alexander String Quartet

Alexander String Quartet

IMPECCABLE BEETHOVEN FROM THE ALEXANDER STRING QUARTET

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 9, 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.