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Chamber
VANHAL QUARTET AT VOM FESTIVAL DISCOVERY AT HANNA CENTER
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 15, 2018
A near-capacity crowd of 220 filled the Sonoma Hanna Boys Center Auditorium July 15 for the opening concert of the fourth Valley of the Moon Music Festival. This Festival presents gems of the Classical and early Romantic periods performed on instruments of the composer’s era, which presents a few ch...
Opera
SPARKLING CIMAROSA OPERA HIGHLIGHTS MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kathryn Stewart
Friday, July 13, 2018
The Classical music era was a time of extraordinary innovation. Dominated by composers from the German-speaking countries, the period witnessed the handiwork of masterpieces by two classical giants, Haydn and Mozart. Both composers put forth a tremendous catalog of masterful works and perhaps to our...
Symphony
!PURA VIDA! A SONIC TRIUMPH FOR SO CO PHIL IN THRILLING COSTA RICA TOUR CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Long anticipated events, such as a great sporting game, gourmet feast, holiday trip or a concert, occasionally fall way short of expectations. The results don’t measure to expectations. With the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Costa Rica concert June 19, the performance exceeded any heated or tenuou...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
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.