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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 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
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the ...
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.