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Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now they seem to be on almost ever...
Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the season’s final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church, as the performers...
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.