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Recital
SLAM BANG SONORITY IN HAOCHEN ZHANG'S SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 19, 2017
Piano Competition winners are in ample supply, and it’s often a hit and miss proposition as to their sterling interpretative qualities. However, the quadrennial Van Cliburn Competition in Ft. Worth has continually produced top-level artists, and the 2009 winner Haochen Zhang proved a formidable per...
Symphony
FOREIGN AFFAIRS CHARACTERS OF THE BAROQUE
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, known as Akamus, played a Weill Hall concert March 12 in a program called "Foreign Affairs -Characters of the Baroque.” The ensemble, that began in 1984, has 15 musicians led by concert master Bernhard Forck. Attired in elegant black with red accents, ranging from tie...
Recital
MUSCULAR PIANISM DOMINATES MILL VALLEY CHAMBER SOCIETY RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Piano recitals since the beginning of the genre open with finger pieces - Scarlatti or Soler Sonatas, Bach, a Mendelssohn Prelude and Fugue or perhaps Mozart or Haydn. Sarah Daneshpour’s March 12 opening work at the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society series abruptly avoided the norm with the 10-minut...
Recital
NOVEL HAYDN AND SCHUMANN IN YARDEN'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, March 09, 2017
Israeli pianist Einav Yarden has been a frequent Sonoma County visitor, playing private recitals for Spring Lake Village and Concerts Grand, and twice performing for Music at Oakmont. The Berlin-based artist returned to Oakmont’s Berger Auditorium March 9 with a program that was neither for connois...
Chamber
CONSUMMATE ENSEMBLE FROM THE MIRÓ IN WEILL
by Sonia Tubridy and Nicki Bell
Sunday, March 05, 2017
A March 5 Weill hall audience of 350 leaned in to share an intimate musical space and to hear the Miró String Quartet’s sterling concert. Starting with Haydn's Op. 20, No. 4, the four musicians seemed to want listeners to be enveloped in their music. The Miró plays with the feat of being four dist...
Recital
BRILLIANT VIOLIN AND PIANO ARTISTRY CHARMS SCHROEDER HALL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 26, 2017
A tiny Schroeder Hall audience heard a flawless recital Feb. 26 by Yu-Chien Tseng, arguably the best recent local violin recital since Gil Shaham’s transversal of the complete Bach Suites in Weill and Frank Almond’s Oakmont recital in 2015. Muscular playing was the afternoon’s norm, and with pianis...
Chamber
MUSIC AND ART MELD IN ZUCKERMAN TRIO CONCERT
by Nicki Bell
Friday, February 24, 2017
A Feb. 24 Weill Hall concert by the Pinchas Zuckerman Trio juxtaposed formidable music making with palpable associations about visual art. Brahms’ C Minor "Sonatensatz” (Scherzo) is a short youthful work for violin and piano, and was an opening call to action. Lively and vigorous playing alternated...
Chamber
THREE BEETHOVEN TRIOS BEGUILE AUDIENCE IN FEB. 19 WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Chamber music concerts featuring one composer can be tricky, but the Han/Setzer/Finckel trio made a Feb. 19 Weill Hall audience of 500 hear and to a degree see the boundless creativity of Beethoven. The G Major Trio, Op. 1, No. 2, opened the afternoon’s Beethoven odyssey and one wonders why it is t...
Chamber
AUTHORITATIVE BARTOK HIGHLIGHTS TETZLAFF VIOLIN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 18, 2017
Christian Tetzlaff’s Feb. 18 violin recital rolled along with lively and fresh readings of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert when the specter of Bartok’s granitic Second Sonata intervened. The sonic shock to the audience of 250 in Weill was palpable. Composed in 1923 the 20-minute two-movement work i...
Symphony
WHAT SOUND DO STAR-CROSSED LOVERS MAKE?
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 12, 2017
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, so the Santa Rosa Symphony feted the occasion by telling and retelling the story of Romeo and Juliet, a tale ever the more poignant during our era of stark divisions. The first telling was from Berlioz; the second from Prokofiev. In between was Brahms’ monu...
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.