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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...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Green Music Center / Sunday, June 28, 2015
Musicians include: Jeffrey Kahane, Jennifer Koh, Margaret Batjer, Benjamin Beilman, Elizabeth Prior, Peter Lloyd, Laura Reynolds, Russ deLuna, Leo Tsui, Douglas Brown, Benjamin Jaber, Danielle Kuhlmann, Robert deMaine, Aloysia Friedmann, Daniel Ching, William Fedkenhuer, John Largess, Joshua Gindele, Elise Shop Henry, Sandy Hughes and Joseph Edelberg

Pianist/Harpsichordist Jeffrey Kahane

BRANDENBURGS A SPIRITUAL GIFT IN FINAL CHAMBERFEST CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, June 28, 2015

“Well, you should have been there.” A trite saying used too often by concertgoers? Sure. But surely it was the appropriate adage for the final Chamberfest concert June 28 in Sonoma State’s Weill Hall.

Capping a nine-event series mostly in Schroeder Hall, Jeffrey Kahane led ensembles of up to 20 musicians in an extraordinary traversal of Bach’s complete Brandenburg Concertos. Written in the small Thuringia town of Cöthen in 1721, the six are multi-movement works of instrumental complexity, underpinned in each by harpsichord continuo and strong bass and cello lines. The program notes referred to this complexity: A presentation of all concertos in a single evening requires a performing group of incredible depth, with individual musicians who are comfortable as both featured soloists and ensemble players.

As the works progressed during the first half (No. 1 in F Major, No. 3 in G Major, No. 5 in D Major) I found myself thinking at each ending, “That was sensational; that was my favorite,” only to uncover a new favorite when hearing the next Concerto. In the famous harpsichord solo in the D Major’s first movement Mr. Kahane played elegantly but as usual for him did something novel. At the section’s conclusion where the finger pyrotechnics and fast trills are ending, the music seems to call for a ritard and phrase broadening, an intimate invitation for the re-entry of ensemble. That’s the way it’s usually played, but he never broke tempo and moved straight to the finish with just a slight nod to his colleagues.

Throughout the evening thrilling playing abounded, especially from violinists Benjamin Bielman and Margaret Batjer, oboists Ashley Ertz and Laura Reynolds, flutists Sandy Hughes and Elise Shope Henry (Concerto No. 4) and trumpeter David Washburn in the concluding No. 2 Concerto. Some of the instruments were not of the Baroque era (oboes for example) but Mr. Washburn played the piercing Baroque trumpet with consummate skill, even able to integrate his luminous sound into the sonic texture when needed.

All through the program string vibrato was present but of low volume and short duration, even in the extended solo violin passages by Bach veteran Jennifer Koh in Concerto No. 1, and in the viola playing of Elizabeth Prior and Aloysia Friedmann in No. 6 that began the second half. In Number 6 the lovely Adagio was performed romantically but with a Baroque sensibility, as were the lament-like slow movements of No. 5 (Affettuoso) and No. 4 (Andante). In the latter Mr. Bielman carried the main theme with blistering scale playing and subtle phrase turns and slides.

The frequent interior-movement ensembles were captivating: cellist Andrew Shulman and violinist Daniel Ching joined by oboe and flute; a contrapuntal viola duo in No. 6; the harpsichord introduction with arpeggios in No. 3, the artist handing off a distant theme to the strings; and Ms. Batjer’s entrancing duo with Ms. Hughes in the Allegro of No. 5.

Preceding the final Concerto Mr. Kahane addressed the audience about the power of Bach’s music to overcome the often unspeakable political and social events of our day, and the spiritual force contained in the compositions of the featured Chamberfest composers: Bach, Beethoven and Brahms.

As at the end of the first part, the rollicking No. 6 produced a tornado of applause, and all the musicians were called to a line at the front of the stage. One audience member brought a single red rose for Mr. Kahane.

As the audience of 700 left the Hall there wasn’t the usual ecstatic chatter about the music, but something of a glow of happiness on many faces. This had been a seminal evening, due of course to the producer Zarin Mehta and his staff, the wonderful musicians, the vision of Jeffrey Kahane, but mostly to a man dead for 265 years. Bach.