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Recital
SLAM BANG SONORITY IN HAOCHEN ZHANG'S SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 19, 2017
Piano Competition winners are in ample supply, and it’s often a hit and miss proposition as to their sterling interpretative qualities. However, the quadrennial Van Cliburn Competition in Ft. Worth has continually produced top-level artists, and the 2009 winner Haochen Zhang proved a formidable per...
Symphony
FOREIGN AFFAIRS CHARACTERS OF THE BAROQUE
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, known as Akamus, played a Weill Hall concert March 12 in a program called "Foreign Affairs -Characters of the Baroque.” The ensemble, that began in 1984, has 15 musicians led by concert master Bernhard Forck. Attired in elegant black with red accents, ranging from tie...
Recital
MUSCULAR PIANISM DOMINATES MILL VALLEY CHAMBER SOCIETY RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Piano recitals since the beginning of the genre open with finger pieces - Scarlatti or Soler Sonatas, Bach, a Mendelssohn Prelude and Fugue or perhaps Mozart or Haydn. Sarah Daneshpour’s March 12 opening work at the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society series abruptly avoided the norm with the 10-minut...
Recital
NOVEL HAYDN AND SCHUMANN IN YARDEN'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, March 09, 2017
Israeli pianist Einav Yarden has been a frequent Sonoma County visitor, playing private recitals for Spring Lake Village and Concerts Grand, and twice performing for Music at Oakmont. The Berlin-based artist returned to Oakmont’s Berger Auditorium March 9 with a program that was neither for connois...
Chamber
CONSUMMATE ENSEMBLE FROM THE MIRÓ IN WEILL
by Sonia Tubridy and Nicki Bell
Sunday, March 05, 2017
A March 5 Weill hall audience of 350 leaned in to share an intimate musical space and to hear the Miró String Quartet’s sterling concert. Starting with Haydn's Op. 20, No. 4, the four musicians seemed to want listeners to be enveloped in their music. The Miró plays with the feat of being four dist...
Recital
BRILLIANT VIOLIN AND PIANO ARTISTRY CHARMS SCHROEDER HALL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 26, 2017
A tiny Schroeder Hall audience heard a flawless recital Feb. 26 by Yu-Chien Tseng, arguably the best recent local violin recital since Gil Shaham’s transversal of the complete Bach Suites in Weill and Frank Almond’s Oakmont recital in 2015. Muscular playing was the afternoon’s norm, and with pianis...
Chamber
MUSIC AND ART MELD IN ZUCKERMAN TRIO CONCERT
by Nicki Bell
Friday, February 24, 2017
A Feb. 24 Weill Hall concert by the Pinchas Zuckerman Trio juxtaposed formidable music making with palpable associations about visual art. Brahms’ C Minor "Sonatensatz” (Scherzo) is a short youthful work for violin and piano, and was an opening call to action. Lively and vigorous playing alternated...
Chamber
THREE BEETHOVEN TRIOS BEGUILE AUDIENCE IN FEB. 19 WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Chamber music concerts featuring one composer can be tricky, but the Han/Setzer/Finckel trio made a Feb. 19 Weill Hall audience of 500 hear and to a degree see the boundless creativity of Beethoven. The G Major Trio, Op. 1, No. 2, opened the afternoon’s Beethoven odyssey and one wonders why it is t...
Chamber
AUTHORITATIVE BARTOK HIGHLIGHTS TETZLAFF VIOLIN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 18, 2017
Christian Tetzlaff’s Feb. 18 violin recital rolled along with lively and fresh readings of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert when the specter of Bartok’s granitic Second Sonata intervened. The sonic shock to the audience of 250 in Weill was palpable. Composed in 1923 the 20-minute two-movement work i...
Symphony
WHAT SOUND DO STAR-CROSSED LOVERS MAKE?
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 12, 2017
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, so the Santa Rosa Symphony feted the occasion by telling and retelling the story of Romeo and Juliet, a tale ever the more poignant during our era of stark divisions. The first telling was from Berlioz; the second from Prokofiev. In between was Brahms’ monu...
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.