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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...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Green Music Center / Thursday, June 25, 2015
Natasha Pafremski and Jeffrey Kahane, piano; Jennifer Koh, violin; Margaret Batjer, violin; Benjamin Jaber, horn

Violinist Jennifer Koh

INSPIRATIONAL BEETHOVEN AND BRAHMS HIGHLIGHT SECOND CHAMBERFEST CONCERT

by Sonia Tubridy
Thursday, June 25, 2015

Chamberfest’s second program in Schroeder Hall June 25, extravagantly organized by Jeffrey Kahane, once again gave the audience extraordinary programming and performances, uniting Bach, Beethoven and Brahms in meaningful and thought provoking juxtapositions.

In a continuation of choices from Program One, the opening piece was a second piano duet arrangement by the contemporary Hungarian composer Gyorgi Kurtag.. Mr. Kahane and Natasha Paremski played Bach's sonatina from Cantata 106, Gotteszeit its die Allerbeste Zeit, originally scored for two viola da gambas and two alto recorders. Placing the gamba parts in the bass and the recorders in the upper voices, this beautifully crafted arrangement set the stage for immortal music and worlds behind the ordinary. As Mr. Kahane remarked tho the audience, here "brevity belies profundity".

Next came Beethoven's Sonata for violin and piano in C minor, Op.30, No. 2, played by Jennifer Koh and Mr. Kahane, and was introduced by the pianist with explanations about Beethoven in 1802 on the cusp of his early and middle periods and his increasing incurable deafness. In a small village outside Vienna he wrote the heartbreaking and noble Heiligenstadt Testament, a letter to his family, friends and generations to come. In this letter he describes his agony and despair, his loneliness and humiliation as he loses the one sense which was his best, and he cannot let others know of this loss. Only "art held me back from death…art and virtue." As Mr. Kahane read Beethoven's plea "do not forget me" the emotion in Kahane's voice matched what was in our hearts.

One of the finest moments in the performance of the Sonata occurred in the simple six note opening motive, a slight lingering on the first note, giving the fast figure following it a sense of inevitable falling. The musical collaboration of violin and piano was exciting and nuanced, bursting with energy and then impish and light, a constant trading of thoughts and emotions between the instruments. This music cannot be listened to passively. The performers swept us up into their impassioned journey. The second movement starts with one of Beethoven's exquisite melodies, simple and classical but supported by transforming harmonies which infuse the simplicity with depth and power. The violin and piano complemented each other and Ms. Koh was often able to provide great beauty with single notes above the piano phrases. The third movement (scherzo) contained violent outbursts, dancing, laughing and humor, The composer as a great jokester. The finale was breathtakingly powerful and intense. The violin and piano gave the maximum commitment to passion, pain and to life force as Beethoven was able to capture in sound. Few could remain unmoved by the Intellectual and emotional abundance of this sonata and this performance. There was an immediate standing ovation.

Following the intermission, Brahms’ Trio, Op. 40, for Horn, Violin and Piano was presented by Margaret Batjer, violin, hornist Benjamin Jaber and Mr. Kahane. This is a unique combination of instruments, never tried before and seldom after Brahms. The composer was 31 when writing the Trio (the same age as Beethoven at the time of his Op. 30) and had suffered the tragedy of the death of his mother. One of the most beloved pieces of chamber music, this Trio explores the many colors possible when juxtaposing violin and horn with piano. The noble warm sound of the French horn can fill a hall and be all around without a specific source, and it can be heard as immediate or as coming from great distances. The violin, in this context, becomes a clear, specific voice as if etching lines on a colored background. The piano, as always, can be anything, from delicate harp or bell sounds to thunder and full orchestra.

The first movement starts with layers of displaced beats and fragments of searching melody which finds its way into moments of ecstatic connection between the voices and then dies away again. Rich lush sounds carried the sense of yearning and undercurrents of dark feelings. This was followed by the driving scherzo, a galloping hunt in which the horn calls and urges ever onward. The tempo was fast and tumbled with cascades of sound. The third movement, adagio mesto, is the heart of this trio, clearly written in mourning for his mother. Dark low strummed chords evoke tragic harps and the three instruments sob, yearn, despair and find outlets for tragic emotions in bursts of glorious sounds but also quiet acceptance and peace. Beautiful ensemble playing and solo lines made this performance outstanding. The fourth movement was brimming with energy and a tempo so fast that many in the audience were left on the edge of our seats, overwhelmed with the rush of this chase and exciting rhythmical tricks. It swept into a powerful finale and received a standing ovation.

Following the music, all the performers gathered on stage for an informative question and answer session ranging from specifics of particular instruments to each musician's inspiration to follow their musical path. Family, teachers and remarkable musicians and mentors heard at an early age gave these instrumentalists their passion for their much valued art of music.

Nicki Bell contributed to this review.