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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...
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.