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Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s Sonoma Overt...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
Chamber
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, perfor...
Symphony
AMERICAN CLASSICS SPARKLE UNDER KAHANE’S BATON
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Jeffrey Kahane, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s former conductor, returned to the Weill Hall podium on Saturday night, and the results were expectedly wonderful. The concert of American classics was by turns playful (Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”), emotional (Barber’s violin concerto) and triumphant (...
Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
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.