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Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
BEETHOVEN'S VALENTINE'S DAY GIFT IN RAC SEBASTOPOL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, February 14, 2020
Continuing a season of Redwood Arts Council successes, the Kouzov Duo performed an eclectic Valentine’s Day concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church before an audience of 125. Beethoven’s charming Op. 66 Variations on Mozart’s “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from the opera the Magic Flute was a bouncy ...
LUSH BACH PERFORMANCE IN DENK'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 13, 2020
Memorable artistic interpretations of musical masterpieces are often at extremes, and with the Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (WTC - Book I) that Jeremy Denk played in Weill Hall Feb. 13, the pianist was only sporadically at unique or ebullient musical ends. But his playing wasn’t exactly at opposite...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Mastercard Performance Series / Saturday, October 24, 2015
Academy of St. Martin In The Fields Chamber Ensemble

Academy St. Martin In the Fields Chamber Ensemble

EMSEMBLE PERFECTION IN ST. MARTIN ACADEMY WEILL CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 24, 2015

With the social and musical glamour surrounding the recent Lang Lang and Joshua Bell recitals in Weill, the Academy of St. Martin in the Field’s eight-musician chamber ensemble's Oct. 24 concert came as a calming musical breeze.

Known to lovers of fine orchestral playing through their scores of recordings, the Academy from London made their local debut with three works that spotlighted refinement and taste rather than high drama. What better way to begin a showcase of distinctive string playing that Rossini’s Sonata in sunny G Major? I have heard the work, purported to have been written at age 12, performed with forces larger than the quartet heard here. But it worked splendidly, the tempos throughout not fast and the lean sound convincing. In the Andantino the final three chords from four instruments were delicately in sync.

The lively concluding Allegro was deftly played with the low sonorities from double bass player Linda Houghton and cellist Stephen Orton carrying well in Weill.

Another small ensemble, this time a quintet playing Mozart’s E-Flat Major work for horn and strings (K. 407), closed the short first half. There is a lot of elegant soft playing in the 1784 work, but with contrasting and often dominating horn playing from Stephen Stirling. The first movement and much of the additional two are almost a concerto for horn, with standout playing of melodious sweetness in the Andante by solo violinist Tomo Keller and duo violists Robert Smissen and Harvey De Souza. The bell of the horn faced to the gallery at the back of the stage but the adroit Mozart sound wasn’t adversely affected.

The finale featured assertive phrasing with horn and violin in dance character, with impeccable phrasing and ensemble.

A short first half turned after intermission to a long but heavenly Schubert Octet (D. 803). The sonic addition of clarinetist Timothy Orpen was welcome after so much luxuriant string playing, and the six movements unfolded with inexorable care and chaste voicing. The unison playing throughout was exemplary and Mr. Keller and De Souza were ever energetic, with the former exhibiting a coiled and then uncoiled ballet with his body and bow.

In the Adagio the clarinet’s lovely opening theme passed over to the violin, and in a duo soared in a Mozartian manner, supported by the horn and bassoon. In this movement there was a richly striking double bass solo over pizzicatos in the higher strings. Perfection.

Much of the Octet has small dance sections with often “question and answer” refrains (the scherzo-like movement 3 and the Andante variations) and the Academy seemingly caught every nuance. Some Octet themes appear initially banal but the composer develops them with mastery, and the performer’s artistry produced a consummate whole. The slight menace of the Menuetto and the controlled power of the finale (Andante Molto), a happy march, were compelling Schubert playing. Polished playing abounded, even in the difficult and constant changes in volume and rhythm.

The sensuous and noble performance produced the only standing ovation of the evening from the surprisingly large audience of 800. Why surprising? With no star soloists or blockbuster repertoire the Academy was able to draw a big house solely from it sterling reputation and enchanting playing.