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A HEALTHY MIX OF TRANSCRIPTIONS AND ORIGINALS FROM THE SR SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Transcriptions and ascending arpeggios were the order of the day on Jan. 24, as the Santa Rosa Symphony performed uplifting works by Bach/Webern, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Marianna Martínes and Mozart. The concert video was made in Weill Hall on Jan. 9. The first transcription was Webern’s 1935 renderi...
Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
RECITAL REVIEW

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.