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Symphony
CONDUCTOR PLAYOFFS BEGIN IN SANTA ROSA
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 08, 2017
The Santa Rosa Symphony is calling 2017-18 “a choice season” because the next few months offer the audience and the symphony’s board of directors a chance to choose a new conductor from a pool of five candidates. Each candidate will lead a three-concert weekend set this fall and winter, with a final...
Symphony
DVORAK AND TCHAIKOVSKY ORCHESTRAL COLOR AT SO CO PHIL SEASON OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 30, 2017
A concert with curious repertoire and splashy orchestral color launched the 19th season of the Sonoma County Philharmonic Sept. 30 in Santa Rosa High School’s Auditorium. Why curious? Conductor Norman Gamboa paired the ever-popular Dvorak and his rarely heard 1891 trilogy In Nature’s Realm, with t...
Recital
ELEGANT PIANISM IN WATER MUSIC CHARMS HOUSE RECITAL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 03, 2017
A standard component of house concerts often involve listeners hearing the music but also smelling the lasagna and seeing the champagne in the adjacent kitchen. But it was not the case Sept. 3 at Sandra Shen’s Concerts Grand House Recital performance, as her riveting piano playing enthralled the sm...
Chamber
YOUNG MUSICIANS SHINE AT PIANO SONOMA CONCERT
by Lee Ormasa
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
The third in a series of four concerts by Piano Sonoma artists in residence, part of the Vino and Vibrato Series, was held August 1 in Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center. Entitled “The Masters,” the program included works by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. Piano Sonoma is a summer artist-in...
Chamber
THRILLING PROGRAM CLOSES VOM CHAMBER FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, July 30, 2017
The finale of the two-week Valley of the Moon Music Festival closed July 30 with “The Age of Bravura” concert at the Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. The musical selections held to this year’s Festival theme “Schumann’s World - His Music and the Music He Loved.“ This summer Festival features chamber mus...
Chamber
PERIOD INSTRUMENTAL SOUND AT PENULTIMATE VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 30, 2017
In the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival’s penultimate concert July 30 the perennial issue of period and modern instruments was apparent. But only in the concluding Mendelssohn Trio, as the performances in the two first half works easily avoided instrumental comparisons. Clara Schumann’s t...
Chamber
ECLECTIC REPERTOIRE IN FETCHING VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 22, 2017
One of the purposes of summer music festivals is to present unfamiliar music in an attractive and often small audience setting. The Valley of the Moon Music Festival delightfully met these requirements July 22 and 23 with two concerts in the small hall at Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. Classical Sono...
Recital
ADAMS' PHRYGIAN GATES HIGHLIGHTS MORKOSKI FESTIVAL PERFORMANCE
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Attendees at the Molly Morkoski Mendocino Music Festival recital July 22 were in for a treat, both pianistically and if they happened to buy a tasty cookie during intermission. The program included Beethoven’s Op. 27 Moonlight Sonata, Adams’ Phrygian Gates, a surprise add-on of Grieg’s Holberg Suit...
Symphony
SOARING VERDI REQUIEM CLOSES 31ST MENDOCINO FESTIVAL
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
We speak frequently about how there is nothing like the experience of a live performance. Seldom was this truer than at the July 22 closing performance of the two-week Mendocino Music Festival. The Festival Orchestra, conducted by of Allan Pollack, joined with the Festival Chorus in a moving renderi...
Recital
ORGAN REGISTRATION MASTERY HEARD IN WALHAIN'S RECITAL
by Robert Young
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
A group of 65 lucky attendees July 18 had the pleasure of hearing Etienne Walhain’s recital at the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa. Mr. Walhain is organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Tournai, Belgium, and played to a varied program Bach, Franck, and Reger. He used the tonal resource...
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.