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Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
Symphony
PEACE AND LOVE FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 04, 2018
Before the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 4 performance of Leonard Bernstein’s “Symphonic Dances from West Side Story,” Symphony CEO Alan Silow took a moment to acknowledge the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack and to observe that music offers a more peaceful and loving view of the world. Mr. ...
Chamber
ATOS TRIO IN MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 04, 2018
When the ATOS Piano Trio planned their all-Russian touring program at their Berlin home base, it had a strong elegiac, even tragic theme that surely resonated with their Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience Nov. 4 in Mill Valley. Comprised of Annette von Hehn, violin; Thomas Hoppe, piano; and...
Chamber
ATOS TRIO IN OCCIDENTAL CHAMBER CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 03, 2018
When the Berlin-based ATOS Piano Trio entered the cramped Occidental Performing Arts stage Nov. 3, the audience of 100 anticipated familiar works in the announced all-Russian program. What they got was a selection of rarely-plays trios, with a gamut of emotions. Then one-movement Rachmaninoff G Mi...
Symphony
MIGHTY SHOSTAKOVICH 10TH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 28, 2018
Just two works were on the opening program of the Marin Symphony’s 67th season Oct. 28, Tchaikovsky’s iconic D Major Violin Concerto, and Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony. Before a full house in the Marin Center Auditorium conductor Alasdair Neale set a judicious opening tempo in the brief orchestra i...
Symphony
VIVALDI FOR ALL SEASONS IN WEILL BAROQUE CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, October 27, 2018
The Venice Baroque Orchestra, a dozen superb musicians that include strings, harpsichord and recorder, played an uplifting concert Oct. 27 of mostly Vivaldi sinfonias and concertos. The Weill Hall audience of 600 had rapt attention throughout, and the playing was of the highest musical level. This r...
CHAMBER REVIEW
MasterCard Performance Series / Sunday, February 09, 2014
Venice Baroque Orchestra. Philippe Jaroussky, counter-tenor.

Countertenor Phillipe Jaroussky

COPIOUS VOCAL VIRTUOSITY IN VENICE BAROQUE ORCHESTRA'S WEILL HALL CONCERT

by Joanna Bramel Young and Howard Young
Sunday, February 09, 2014

On a rainy Feb. 9 afternoon an expectant umbrella-carrying audience crowded into Weill Hall to hear arguably the world’s greatest living countertenor, Philippe Jaroussky, with the renowned Venice Baroque Orchestra. Eighteenth-century countertenors, called castrati, were young male singers whose manhood had been sacrificed to preserve their soprano range, and which enabled them to sing female roles in operas. Only men were allowed to perform on stage. The castrato known professionally as Farinelli was the most widely celebrated of all Italian singers of his era, the equivalent of today’s rock star. Nowadays countertenors and mezzo sopranos fill that role in historically informed productions of baroque operas and oratorios.

The concert opened with an Overture by Porpora, a Neapolitan composer whose opera company competed in England with that of Handel, both vying for the services of the best singers, to the benefit of discerning audiences. As Farinelli’s demanding vocal instructor, Porpora naturally had the use of his gifts. And Porpora was served well by the Venice Baroque Orchestra on Sunday as it navigated his Overture brilliantly, with quick, crisp tempi, lyrical slow movements and charming solos by the oboes and horns. In the following work, the aria Mira in cielo (Look up to Heaven), also by Porpora, Mr. Jaroussky wasted no time in exhibiting his stunning virtuosity seasoned with expressiveness. With consummate ease his voice flowed from very high notes to rich lows, his intonation always sure. His seeming effortlessness belied his careful shaping of each note in the long melismas sung in brilliant passages. The orchestra worked as a single accompanying instrument, always where needed and never overpowering. Bows were quickly lifted from the strings at the ends of notes, creating a solid yet delicate staccato effect. Every inflection of the voice was delicately mirrored by the orchestra: A sung forte was supported vigorously by the instruments, and then a pianissimo for the entire ensemble would taper off into silence.

The virtuoso singer never rendered his ornaments the same way twice, and the da capo of an aria was enhanced by more brilliant embellishments but never overdone. When each aria concluded, the unusually demonstrative audience responded with shouts and whistles, amazed at what they had just heard. Two separate couples I spoke with said they had heard the same program two days earlier in Berkeley and had come to savor it one more time.

In the Porpora aria Si pietoso il tuo labbro ragiona (Since you speak so sympathetically) Mr. Jaroussky sang the words contenti sognando (happily dreaming) in a phrase rich in artful tender trills and carried in a single extended breath. A breathtaking unaccompanied cadenza ended the aria. For Handel’s Mi lusinga il dolce affetto (Sweet passion tempts me) oboes and bassoon were added. While Mr. Jaroussky sang, the orchestra became one instrument whose only purpose was to support him, reflecting each passionate emotion of the aria. In a long cadenza near the end, the singer took all the time he wanted, the orchestra waiting and then entering with a repeat of the same melody, ending in a lovely pianissimo.

Just before Intermission a Handel love song was followed by a tempestuous aria about a fierce tiger that was being hunted: Sta nell’Ircana (In her stony Caspian lair the fierce tiger stands). After brilliant ornaments sung on the repeat, the aria ended with the hunter--represented by unaccompanied horns--echoing the countertenor’s words.

In Handel’s aria Scherza infida (Mock me, faithless one) the dissonances were achingly lovely, resolving only at the last moment. The solo bassoon played long suspensions and Mr. Jaroussky’s voice almost wept as he sang, in slowly descending notes, “I lie in the arms of death.” The final poignant love song, Porpora’s Nell’ attendere (While I await), ended with the words La speranza porterà (Hope promises). In the middle of the closing long cadenza, a single horn suddenly sounded, echoing the phrase just sung. As if startled, the singer abruptly glanced over his shoulder, and he and horn playfully concluded the aria.

The element of surprise made this performance exciting. Nothing was played or sung the same way twice. There was surprise in the brilliant ornaments, the messa di voce consisting of a gradual crescendo and decrescendo over a sustained note (an essential characteristic of vocal works of this period). The pure intonation and notable grace with which Mr. Jaroussky brought out the conflicting emotions of each aria was terrific.

A brilliantly performed encore echoed the standard that the musicians had set for the afternoon, and the audience--on its feet and applauding at length--showed Philippe Jaroussky and the Venice Baroque Orchestra how much they had enjoyed themselves. A return engagement is a must.