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Symphony
MENDELSSOHN'S SCOTTISH SAVES THE EVENING IN SRS WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Monday, February 11, 2019
The audience entering Weill Hall for Santa Rosa Symphony concerts Feb. 9-11 were presented with a program that on first glance appeared a curious patchwork – a great symphony mixed with a seldom heard concerto and two disparate overtures, and a guest conductor unknown locally. Monday night’s concer...
Recital
INTRIGUING BELL-HAYWOOD RECITAL BEFORE FULL HOUSE IN WEILL HALL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, February 08, 2019
A big portion of the capacity audience in Weill Hall February 8th came to hear violinist Joshua Bell’s virtuosity, and were treated as well to splendid playing from Sam Haywood, Mr. Bell’s regular pianist since 2010. The duo performed three engaging sonatas, highlighted by Mr. Bell’s sterling techn...
Symphony
TRIPLE PLAY UKIAH SYMPHONY CONCERT AND TCHAIKOVSKY SERENADE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Over the years the Ukiah Symphony’s concerts have been in the Classical Sonoma Calendar sections, but rarely has this Orchestra, now in its 39th season, had a full winter season concert review. The provocative Jan. 27 program in Mendocino College’s Center Theater seemed a good reason to reacquaint ...
Symphony
JACKSON THEATER WELCOMES A NEW RESIDENT ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Moving to a permanent new performance venue can be a perilous undertaking for an orchestra, with different acoustics, the loyal audience finding the new spot and infrastructure challenges of lighting and lobby and backstage operations. In their first concert Jan. 26 in Windsor’s Jackson Theater the...
Symphony
ECLECTIC PASSIONATE PROGRAMMING AT MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 26, 2019
The Marin Symphony’s second Masterworks concert of the 2018-19 season featured works by John Adams, Sibelius and Brahms, a masterful assembly. In a spoken introduction before the program’s first half, conductor Alasdair Neale primed the audience for the “terra incognita” of Adams’ The Chairman Dance...
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 REVIEW
Concerto Kõln / Saturday, April 11, 2015
Cordula Breur, flute; Anna Torge, mandolin; Margret Kõll, harp. Others TBA

Concerto Kõln

CONCERTO KÖLN DELIGHTS WITH RARELY-HEARD BAROQUE WORKS

by Joanna Bramel Young
Saturday, April 11, 2015

Weill Hall resonated April 11 with an agreeable group of Baroque works not often heard, though the composers are in fact well known. This assured, skilled plumbing of quiet corners of the repertoire is the specialty of Concerto Köln, based in Cologne, Germany, but received with pleasure throughout the world. The number of musicians forming the ensemble apparently varies from time to time, and Weill’s small yet ardent audience welcomed twenty-one, all gifted and polished performers.

Founded in 1985 by like-minded graduates of European colleges, the ensemble has no permanent conductor, although it does have an Artistic Director--Martin Sandhoff. In this program, concertmistress Mayumi Hirasaki, with both body language and spirited violin work, led the way through the lively program.

Two instruments rarely heard in Baroque music, harp and mandolin, were showcased. A Vivaldi concerto for Mandolin, Violin, and Strings (an arrangement of a concerto for oboe, violin and strings) was not the “famous” one that many of us have heard, but it was delightful in any event. Arrangements of works for other instruments were commonly crafted by Baroque composers, including Bach and Handel, to accommodate the occasion. Also on the program was Concerto for Harp and Strings, which Handel had originally composed as an organ concerto.

The opening work of the evening was Telemann’s Concerto for Flute, Violin, Strings and Bass in D Major, wherein flutist Wilbert Hazelzet soloed with Ms. Hirasaki. As was typical for eighteenth-century ensembles, all the musicians stood, and the work opened with a stately Moderato, with violins punctuating slow rhythmical notes with bows striking, then lifting from the strings. This movement epitomizes the use of gesture, which, typical of Baroque dance, is energized by the sprightly rhythms. Mr. Hazelzet demonstrated with fluent technique how a one-keyed baroque flute could negotiate brilliant fast passagework. The Largo began with the solo violin and flute intermingling in a poignant melody before the orchestra joined in with a delicate touch. As with many of Telemann’s compositions, the final Vivace was dance-like, the standing musicians themselves nearly dancing as they played.

The Vivaldi Concerto for Mandolin, Violin, Strings and Basso Continuo was an absolute delight. The mandolin used intrigued me for both its visual beauty and its sound. Nowadays we are accustomed to mandolins with flat bodies and a loud, ringing tone. In contrast, this Baroque mandolin was smaller than modern instruments, with a rounded belly and a surprisingly short fingerboard that ended in a gracefully curved “point” where the tuning pegs are located. While the overall tone of the instrument was quite soft, soloist Anna Torge was able to coax brighter tones from it when necessary. This work’s most compelling movement was the Largo, when all instruments played pizzicato, producing the sound of a giant mandolin. The archlute (the six-foot-long baroque lute) contributed its own soft, rich, deep tones to the plucked ensemble, harmonizing perfectly with Ms. Torge’s tasteful, delicate ornaments.

The opening segment of the program closed with the well-known Corelli Concerto Grosso for two Violins, Cello, Strings and Basso Continuo, and played with sparkling animation and lilting downbeats. Although seated, first cellist Jan Kunkel practically danced his way through the piece. When it ended, the entire audience rose to applaud enthusiastically. It was at this moment that the performers must have realized that, although less numerous than they might have liked, the audience adored them.

Handel’s Concerto for Harp and Strings in B-flat major launched the second half of the program. For it a beautiful baroque harp, perhaps six feet high, was brought out, while the archlute was positioned beside it. Hearing these two instruments playing together, the lute accompanying the harp, with the orchestra in nuanced support, was profoundly satisfying. The sound of the harp was exquisite with soloist Margret Köll playing with expressive virtuosity. Meanwhile, lutenist Simon Martyn-Ellis deserved thanks for his tasteful and imaginative accompaniment.

The concluding piece was Vivaldi’s Concerto for Mandolin, Harp, Strings and Basso Continuo in D Major. Although it was not originally composed for this combination of instruments, I am sure Vivaldi would have approved. In the first movement the mandolin and harp played together unaccompanied, in echoing phrases, weaving a light, lovely fabric. For the Grave the harp accompanied the mandolin, playing beautifully crafted ornaments. In the final Allegro, the harp had its turn, emerging with a major solo accompanied by mandolin and orchestra, the full ensemble then closing with a glorious tutti.

Again the audience rose to its feet, applauding so vigorously that two encores were offered, the second played with the entire orchestra in pizzicato, once more emulating a mandolin orchestra. Plucked with astonishing sensitivity (and a sense of humor), the final strains dwindled and dwindled (the listeners were rapt) into perfect silence.

Concerto Köln brought energy, confidence, and consummate skill to exploration of engaging lesser-known works. We will watch eagerly for their return.