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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...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
RECITAL REVIEW
Diane Maltester and Friends / Sunday, November 9, 2014
Diane Maltester

LaDene Otsuki and Diane Maltester Nov. 9 in Vallejo

CHAMBER MUSIC MASTERY IN VALLEJO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA CONCERT

by Elizabeth Warnimont
Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Vallejo Symphony Orchestra presented the first small group performance of its 2014-2015 season Nov. 9 in the casual setting of Vallejo’s First Presbyterian Church. Clarinetist Diane Maltester wowed the audience with stunning performances of pieces by well-known and rarely heard composers.

“Diane and Friends,” the title of the concert, featured Ms. Maltester with pianist LaDene Otsuki and cellist Dawn Foster-Dodson. Beethoven’s B Flat Trio, Op. 11, was the opening work and Ms. Maltester’s instrument sang beautifully throughout. The Trio opens with an allegro movement in which cello and clarinet must speed through sprightly runs in sync with each other, while the piano contributes the soothing element of even, rhythmic accompaniment. The mood of the piece is lighthearted despite the virtuosic requirements it places on the musicians. Its succession of happy passages reminded me of a Buster Keaton silent film, lively and playful with few quiet interludes.

The second movement is Adagio, slowing things down enough for the composer to convey deeper emotions and allowing a more contemplative tone from both the wind and string instruments. Ms. Maltester's sensitive and masterful playing was all the more remarkable juxtaposed in these two contrasting movements.

The finale is a continuum of nine variations on the theme “Pria ch'io l'impegno” (Before I go to Work). The trio in its entirety is often referred to as the Gassenhauer, or “Street Song”, referring to the theme in this third movement that was commonly played by street musicians in Beethoven's time. Ms. Foster-Dodson’s sonorous cello was clearly heard in this part that included high-speed synchronized runs and expressive solo segments.

Weber’s brilliant Grand Duo Concertant, Opus 48, a showpiece for piano and clarinet, was a technical challenge for the performers, and Ms. Maltester played the emotional passages in the clarinet’s lowest register with a beautiful tone and apparent ease. The Duo also demands piano virtuosity and Ms. Otsuki’s playing kept pace with the sometimes lightning-fast runs.

The second movement is notably mournful at the onset, transitioning to more thoughtful passages before becoming more excited and hopeful at its height. The movement culminates in a somber and pessimistic tone, contrasting with the concluding Rondo movement in which piano and clarinet both sing happy tunes of revelry. As if to emphasize its happy ending, the piece concludes on a decisive final note, a tonal declaration of victory.

After a brief intermission, works by Bernstein and Muczynski were heard. The Bernstein's neoclassical Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, from 1943, has a modern feel with unusual and complex chord changes, rhythms and tonalities. The beginning Grazioso movement opens with tremendous discord, a sound of dizzying confusion and volume. Some bright melodic lines appear briefly, only to sink back into the mire of complex sound. The movement then transitions into music more palatable to most concertgoers. The following Andantino movement is dance-like in its relative grace and simplicity. The music is flirtatious and uncluttered, evocative of a contemporary dance performance. Passages of serene solitude interlace with more upbeat, celebratory strains. It was easy to hear the tenderness of sound from both the clarinet and the piano, especially in the upper registers. Ms. Otsuki’s playing was more aggressive here, exuding unfettered joy in the dancing piano passages.

The pianist’s playing was most persuasive in the Muczynski’s Op. 26 Fantasy Trio, beginning with the Allegro Energico. The composition shares the modern tone of the Bernstein piece but without the overly complex rhythms and dissonance. Ms. Otsuki's played beautifully expressive phrases in the sweet melodic segments, and the cello line also had a strong, pulsating ground beat and bright, violin-like melodies.

In the Andante movement the interactive melody and harmony that develops between cello and clarinet was striking, as if the two disparate sounds originated from one unified source. It was a sound of ethereal and pure beauty. In the finale (Allegro) Ms. Foster-Dodson played many dramatic runs and sharp staccato bursts. Themes from the earlier parts of the piece culminated here in a gala of sound. The higher-register melodies allowed Ms. Maltester to demonstrate another aspect of her mastery as she elicited flute-like sounds from her instrument.

As in the Weber Concertant, the Trio ends decisively with a clever play of changing meters and had an upbeat and celebratory character.

“Diane and Friends” was the final performance of the calendar year for the Vallejo Symphony, and the season continues with “Concert for the Animals” on January 25 in Vallejo’s Hogan Auditorium. The soloists will be pianists Eric Tran and Nathan Cheung with narrator Corey Fischer. David Ramadanoff is the conductor.

This review first appeared in the Benicia Herald.