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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...
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...
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.