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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...
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.