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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 ...
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.