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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
Mastercard Performance Series / Saturday, January 24, 2015
Yo Yo Ma, cello

Cellist Yo Yo Ma

MESMERIZING BACH AND CASALS IN MA'S WEILL HALL RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 24, 2015

Cellist Yo Yo Ma’s warm friendship with North Coast audiences entered a new chapter Jan. 24 in a standing-room only and stage seats Weill Hall recital. Playing three Bach Suites for solo cello, Mr. Ma could have echoed the young Liszt’s famous comment, “the concert is me.”

But the concert was really about Bach, and Mr. Ma’s dedication and mastery for these ever-fresh works composed in the early 1720s in Cöthen, Germany. Wearing a simple dark suit he walked quickly on stage to first of four ovations, and with his trademark grin got down to business with the G Major (No. 1), BWV 1007.

The lack of winter audience coughs was a surprising bonus, and the cellist made the most of the hall’s silence to fashion an evening’s Bach that spotlighted rhythmic virtuosity rather than a constantly speedy bow and work on the fingerboard. It seemed there was never an extended presto the entire night, and Mr. Ma was in no hurry to get anywhere in this Suite and the No. 5 in C Minor (BWV 1011) that closed the first half.

All through both works the pianissimo playing was superb with varied attacks and textures in the repeats and a fluid legato with minimal vibrato. Often there was no vibrato at all in long-held notes at the end of silken phrases. These were carefully balanced interpretations, often restrained and emphasizing the subtlest changes in tempo and inflection. The crescendos were long and beautifully paced.

Mr. Ma drew a warm geniality in the concluding C Major Suite (No. 3, BWV 1009) and the sonority was underscored in his cello by the use of low open C string in chords. His control of multiple stops was sovereign in this seven-movement suite. The plaintive and magisterial Sarabande was at the center of his reading, and the Gigue came forth as a rustic dance with pedal point.

Responding to a spirited standing ovation Mr. Ma eschewed in an encore something popular and fast (the Gigue from the E Flat Suite) or popular and slow (St. Saëns’ “Swan”) and paid homage in audience remarks to Pablo Casals, who in modern times first played the six Suites together and first recorded them in 1936. He played a mesmerizing “The Song of the Birds” that the Catalan cellist wrote in the 1930s. The shimmering long phrases and luminous trills sounded out in a Weill Hall where nearly 1,500 people breathed as one with the extraordinary musician.