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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...
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.