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Recital
HOME RECITAL BACH COMPLETES HOLIDAY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 30, 2017
The just closing 2017 year was a calamity for many, but locally in music there were joys galore, and it was fitting Dec. 30 have the balm of two Bach’s violin sonatas in a private Guerneville home recital hosted by the eminent musician Sonia Tubridy. Violinist Richard Heinberg joined Ms. Tubridy in...
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 WITH 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...
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.