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Choral and Vocal
A SEASONAL MESSIAH WITH BALANCE AND HEFT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 10, 2017
The mid-December concert season seems for jaded reviewers to invariably include a Messiah performance, and perhaps a Messiah in a long string of similar and mundane performances. This was decidedly not the case when San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque mounted Handel’s eminent three-part 1742 Orato...
Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony concert featured two elegant and refined guests: music director candidate Andrew Grams and pianist Stewart Goodyear. Both displayed dazzling technique and consummate artistry, but Goodyear was the more consistent of the two. Some of Grams’ inconsistency may have st...
Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
Chamber
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the ...
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.