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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 ...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Mill Valley Chamber Music Society / Sunday, January 25, 2015
Manasse-Nakamatsu Duo. Jon Manasse, clarinet; Jon Nakamatsu, piano

Manasse-Nakamatsu Duo

SNAZZY CLARINET-PIANO WORKS IN MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 25, 2015

Often international-level instrumental duos are pickup couplings, one virtuoso’s schedule meeting another’s with the resulting desultory concerts. An exception would be the violinist Anne Sophie Mutter with her long-time partner Lambert Orkis, and the Nakamatsu-Manesse Duo.

The latter played a provocative concert Jan. 25 in the Mill Valley United Methodist Church, and the ten years of collaborative music-making of the two Jons was everywhere in evidence. Perhaps the recital’s major work was the E Flat Sonata of Brahms, Op. 120, No. 2. Here the playing was muscular and often loud in the Church’s diffuse acoustic ambience but it never deviated from the autumnal character of late Brahms. Mr. Nakamatsu’s phrasing with inner voices and subtle rubatos was admirable.

The scherzo was suitably impassioned and the finale (a set of variations) was taken at a fleet pace, the clarinet line rising and falling over the pedal point and solid underpinning of the piano line.

Massager’s frenzied Solo de Concours, a charming six-minute romp for clarinet, opened the recital and the Chopin Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise, Op. 22, for solo piano, ended the first half. The first was played with delicious relish by Mr. Manasse, and the second with assured virtuosity by Mr. Nakamatsu. The Chopin has been a signature piece for the San Jose-based pianist, and was featured in his 2011 Santa Rosa recital and on recordings. Virtuosos in the past played the flowing Andante fast and the following Polonaise leisurely, but the pianist adopted the modern practice with a strolling pace (“spun out”) and a quick Polish dance ending. Mr. Nakamatsu gently teased the rhythms in the Polonaise and varied the speed of the few trills and repeats. Just before the final few bars there was spot at the top of a run where the last note was held in a bravura way with the sostenuto pedal. The effect of this and the final five repeated E-Flat notes brought a standing ovation from the 350 in the Church.

Mr. Manasse’s entertaining verbal comments preceded every work in the recital and he playfully called his partner ‘Mr. Nakamazing,” alluded to his past as a piano competition winner and high school teacher of German. The pianist took it all in stride and in the Poulenc Clarinet Sonata the Duo played the charming work from 1962 with aplomb. The Romanza was especially lovely with reflections of the composer’s earlier Les Soirées de Nazelles. The clarinet and pianissimo piano lines moved in perfect balance.

A set of three brief works spotlighting Mr. Manasse concluded the program, including his playing of Stravinsky’s Three Pieces for Clarinet Solo and Charles Goodwin’s Four Views of Clarinet and Piano from 2012. The Four Views is a busy work with syncopated questions and answers from the instruments, with lyrical Coplandesque motives popping in. In places the playing was in café music style and background movie music, turning in the final section to bouncy jazz motives.

The concert ended with another work written for the Duo, John Novacek’s Full Stride Ahead from “Four Rags for Two Jons.” The Duo has been playing this work for many seasons and gave the snazzy piano-voice interplay (from the iconic Ammons/Johnson bluesy stride style) a scintillating interpretation of high-level high jinks that predictably brought down the house.

An encore was demanded and the Duo responded with an arrangement of Gershwin’s I Got Rhythm from the 1930’s musical “Girl Crazy.” Mr. Manasse made a fetching display of squeaks and skips with the clarinet, along with several long glissandos from Mr. Nakamatsu. Clearly they were having a great deal of fun with the piece.

And so did the audience, including many that had heard the duo in the Mill Valley Chamber Series four years ago and who were seen asking the producers for a third appearance of this impeccable pair.