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Opera
SPARKLING CIMAROSA OPERA HIGHLIGHTS MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kathryn Stewart
Friday, July 13, 2018
The Classical music era was a time of extraordinary innovation. Dominated by composers from the German-speaking countries, the period witnessed the handiwork of masterpieces by two classical giants, Haydn and Mozart. Both composers put forth a tremendous catalog of masterful works and perhaps to our...
Symphony
!PURA VIDA! A SONIC TRIUMPH FOR SO CO PHIL IN THRILLING COSTA RICA TOUR CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Long anticipated events, such as a great sporting game, gourmet feast, holiday trip or a concert, occasionally fall way short of expectations. The results don’t measure to expectations. With the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Costa Rica concert June 19, the performance exceeded any heated or tenuou...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now they seem to be on almost ever...
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.