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Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s Sonoma Overt...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
Chamber
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, perfor...
Symphony
AMERICAN CLASSICS SPARKLE UNDER KAHANE’S BATON
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Jeffrey Kahane, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s former conductor, returned to the Weill Hall podium on Saturday night, and the results were expectedly wonderful. The concert of American classics was by turns playful (Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”), emotional (Barber’s violin concerto) and triumphant (...
Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
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.