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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...
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...
RECITAL REVIEW
Bell Bax Duo / Friday, October 24, 2014
Joshua Bell, violin; Alessio Bax, piano

Violinist Joshua Bell

THREE DISPARATE SONATAS HIGHLIGHT BELL'S SR SYMPHONY BENEFIT IN WELLS

by Nicki Bell
Friday, October 24, 2014

Superstar violinist Joshua Bell and pianist Alessio Bax made the Well Fargo Center their first stop Oct. 24 on their world tour, and it was a scintillating benefit recital for the Santa Rosa Symphony.

Mr. Bellʼs virtuosity and musicianship have elicited universal critical praise including sweetness of tone, sinuous phrasing, unforced ease, expressiveness, sensuality and drama without exaggeration. All were on splendid display in violin and piano sonatas of Schubert, Grieg and Prokofiev. Mr. Bax was a perfect match for Mr. Bell in expressiveness, nuances, and exciting story telling of these sonatas.

Capturing the emotional power and narrative with its punctuation is telling a story in music, and these two handsome black-clad figures spun golden sound with a natural rise and fall of phrases that reminded one of the physicality and finesse of fine dancers. Each work was played from score.

Schubertʼs four-movement Sonata in A Major, “Duo,” D.574 Op. 162, from 1817, opened the program. Strong thematic unity connected the movements. Mr. Bellʼs elegant string tone and delicacy of pianissimo in the long fluid lines were memorable. In the last movement he was a dancer with his instrument. The three-movement Op. 8 Grieg Sonata in F Major that ended the first half provided ample contrast. Composed in the summer of 1865 while the Norwegian master was on holiday, this youthful work depicts the sunny side of life and is full of physicality from both the violin and piano. The opening movement had a graceful performance in the style of Mendelssohn and Schumann, and the finale was fresh and convincing.

After intermission the Prokofiev F Minor Sonata, Op.80, was the other end of the emotional spectrum. Dark and brooding, this is music about death and was composed during WW II. The slithering violin scale passages at the end of the first and fourth movements the composer described as “wind passing through a grave yard,” and the rigid and clipped cadences were played in a manner that created an image of military power.

Mr. Bell spoke to the packed Well’s audience about the sonata and described it as a march to death, with the second movement hell, the third Heaven and the last part very dark and bringing back the graveyard. Perfect for an early view of Halloween. Mr. Bell and Mr. Bax didnʼt just play the music, they were the music.

Two encores lightened the mood, beginning with Sarasateʼs thrilling dance Introduction and Tarantella, and then the soulful Rachmaninoff “Vocalise” brought the rich evening to a close.

Two interesting notes from Mr. Bell’s career are the Washington Post story about his playing Bach incognito to rushing and often oblivious commuters in a DC Metro station, and having his 300-year old Stradavarius violin stolen backstage in New York.