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Symphony
MENDELSSOHN'S SCOTTISH SAVES THE EVENING IN SRS WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Monday, February 11, 2019
The audience entering Weill Hall for Santa Rosa Symphony concerts Feb. 9-11 were presented with a program that on first glance appeared a curious patchwork – a great symphony mixed with a seldom heard concerto and two disparate overtures, and a guest conductor unknown locally. Monday night’s concer...
Recital
INTRIGUING BELL-HAYWOOD RECITAL BEFORE FULL HOUSE IN WEILL HALL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, February 08, 2019
A big portion of the capacity audience in Weill Hall February 8th came to hear violinist Joshua Bell’s virtuosity, and were treated as well to splendid playing from Sam Haywood, Mr. Bell’s regular pianist since 2010. The duo performed three engaging sonatas, highlighted by Mr. Bell’s sterling techn...
Symphony
TRIPLE PLAY UKIAH SYMPHONY CONCERT AND TCHAIKOVSKY SERENADE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Over the years the Ukiah Symphony’s concerts have been in the Classical Sonoma Calendar sections, but rarely has this Orchestra, now in its 39th season, had a full winter season concert review. The provocative Jan. 27 program in Mendocino College’s Center Theater seemed a good reason to reacquaint ...
Symphony
JACKSON THEATER WELCOMES A NEW RESIDENT ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Moving to a permanent new performance venue can be a perilous undertaking for an orchestra, with different acoustics, the loyal audience finding the new spot and infrastructure challenges of lighting and lobby and backstage operations. In their first concert Jan. 26 in Windsor’s Jackson Theater the...
Symphony
ECLECTIC PASSIONATE PROGRAMMING AT MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 26, 2019
The Marin Symphony’s second Masterworks concert of the 2018-19 season featured works by John Adams, Sibelius and Brahms, a masterful assembly. In a spoken introduction before the program’s first half, conductor Alasdair Neale primed the audience for the “terra incognita” of Adams’ The Chairman Dance...
Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
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.