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Chamber
BEETHOVEN FEATURED IN SF TRIO'S OCCIDENTAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 19, 2020
Conventional repertoire in uncommonly good performances highlighted the San Francisco Piano Trio’s Jan. 19 concert in the Occidental Center for the Arts. Haydn’s No. 44 Trio (Hob. XV:28) came from late in his long career, when he was in and out of London, and received a sparkling reading that featu...
SIMONE PORTER ASPIRES TO STARDOM WITH SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 12, 2020
The Sibelius violin concerto is one of several mountains that violin soloists need to ascend before they can lay claim to stardom. Hundreds make the attempt every year, but only a few reach the top. Simone Porter, who played the concerto with the Santa Rosa Symphony on Sunday afternoon, got close bu...
Choral and Vocal
ORPHEUS OF AMSTERDAM'S MUSIC IN SCHROEDER ORGAN CHORAL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, January 10, 2020
“All over the map.” Sonoma Bach, directed by Bob Worth, has taken its audiences this season on journeys through many centuries and many lands. The programming is fresh and intriguing and the performers varied and creators of beauty and interest. The January 10 program was centered on organ works by...
Choral and Vocal
OLD NORTH GERMAN CAROLS IN SONOMA BACH'S SCHROEDER CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, December 15, 2019
“Cast off all sorrows…also dance in heavenly fashion.” A volume called Piae Cantiones was printed in 1582 in North Germany, lively songs going back to the 14th century, and this treasure trove provided material for numerous composers to arrange Christmas carols over following generations, from simp...
Symphony
EVERLASTING LIGHT AT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Monday, December 09, 2019
The Mozart Requiem includes four intermittent vocal soloists, but the real star is the choir, which is featured in almost every movement. That stardom shone bright at the Santa Rosa Symphony’s memorable Requiem performance on Monday night. The soloists were good, but the choir was superb. Located wi...
Symphony
UNFINISHED AND FINNISH
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 08, 2019
Having a new resident conductor on the podium for the Ukiah Symphony was an attractive invitation for a long-delayed visit to Mendocino College’s Center Theater Dec. 8. The insouciant Les Pfutzenreuter recently retired after decades of conducting the ensemble, replaced by Phillip Lenberg who also j...
Choral and Vocal
PRAERTORIUS IN RENAISSANCE GLORY FROM SONOMA BACH
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, November 16, 2019
Sonoma Bach Choir, in collaboration with Barefoot All-Stars Viol Consort and The Whole Noyse Brass Ensemble, presented “Sing Glorious Praetorius!” November 16 to an almost full Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center. The Soloists were soprano Dianna Morgan, Christopher Fritzsche, (countertenor), m...
Symphony
ECLECTIC INSTRUMENTAL EXCITEMENT IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 16, 2019
Beginning with a scintillating reading of Rossini’s Overture to the Opera “Semiramide,” the Sonoma County Philharmonic performed a splendid program Nov. 16 in the Jackson Theater, and featured two additional works, one showcasing the winner of the San Francisco Conservatory’s Young Artist Award. It...
Chamber
SPIRITUAL LATE BEETHOVEN QUARTET HIGHLIGHTS MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 10, 2019
Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Op. 131, called “unparalleled in its inexhaustibility” by critic Thomas May, is a daunting challenge. Orchestral in concept, filled with wit and charm, melancholy and fury, it almost overwhelms listeners. Playing the frenetic Scherzo, a viol...
Symphony
MUSICAL EXTRAVAGANCE IN UNIQUE SRS CONCERT IN WEILL HALL
by Terry McNeill
Monday, November 04, 2019
It was a concert full of surprises Nov. 4 as the Santa Rosa Symphony responded to the area’s wild fires and evacuations with challenging, songful and somewhat unique music in Weill Hall. The last of a three-concert series titled "Master of the Modern Banjo" is reviewed here. The evening began with...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Music at Oakmont / Thursday, December 10, 2015
Frank Almond, violin; William Wolfram, piano

Violinist Frank Almond

BRAWNEY ARTISTRY IN ALMOND-WOLFRAM MUSIC AT OAKMONT RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, December 10, 2015

Scintillating string playing has always been a feature of the Music at Oakmont concerts, but Dec. 10’s recital by violinist Frank Almond and pianist William Wolfram was exceptionally virtuosic and musically convincing.

The cornerstone of the performance came in the second half with a brawny reading of a titular work in the violin repertoire, Beethoven’s dramatic A Major Sonata, Op. 47 (Kreutzer). Playing without score, as he did the entire recital, Mr. Almond managed the fast tempo broken thirds and sixths in the opening Adagio – Presto with aplomb, and surmounted the technical hurdles in the graceful slow movement of trills and lyrical lightness. The piece’s famous first measures before the pianist enters, where there is string movement from the second to third chord (both in thirds), and then thee pianist with broken sixth chords, were deftly played. It’s not easy to do.

In the Andante there was some note blurring in quick passages but the violinist’s playing was always clear, with alternating seconds, at the top of the instrument’s register. Mr. Wolfram had an amazing trill technique here, even and easily swelling from piano to forte. The finale was “off to the races” in tempo, making the most of the composer’s dazzling inventiveness and mastery.

Over 45 minutes, this “Kreutzer” with all the repeats was held beautifully together by the duo and was a potent musical achievement.

In older days violin recitals frequently began with a middle drawer baroque piece, sometimes Tartini’s Devil’s Trill or Didone Abbandonata, or the Vitali Chaconne, or some Geminiani. Mr. Almond performed the Tartini G Minor “Devil’s Trill,” a 14-minute work with a mostly continuo part for the piano. I think the Kreisler cadenza was selected, and the performance was at turns virtuosic and even splashy with pithy small slides and sometimes comely phrasing.

Before intermission two disparate pieces were played, one arguably the greatest single work for the solo violin, and the other a late romantic sonata by an unknown Swedish composer, Amanda Röntgen-Maier. From the late 1880s, the Sonata in B Minor has hints of Rubinstein, Grieg and especially Schumann, but easily stands on its own. Mr. Almond underscored a slow wistfulness in the Andantino – Allegrettoand his use of pizzicato moving into the coda with a delicate soft bow was captivating. Grieg’s music, especially the great C Minor Sonata, seems to influence the finale, and Mr. Wolfram gave its surging passion powerful pianism. The violinist was less persuasive in the last forceful bars that needed a more soaring violin line. In sum, a very good reading of an attractive Sonata that needs more concert exposure.

Mr. Almond then played the justly iconic Bach Chaconne (from the D minor Partita, BWV 1004), and it seemed too easy to compare his performance with Gil Shaham’s March transversal of all the solo Bach Sonatas and Partitas in nearby Weill Hall. Easy because Mr. Shaham was consistently fast with tempos, and Mr. Almond was uniformly fast in phrasing. Perhaps it was simply the artist’s mood on a rainy Thursday and the compressed succinct scales and agogics were certainly convincing in their way. But this great music can profit with taking a little more time before transitions in the variations, and adopting more elasticity in note values.

Mr. Almond was a witty and informative speaker to the 200 in Berger Auditorium, describing each work and charmingly referring to Robert Hayden, Music at Oakmont’s founder and the star of a birthday reception following in the hall after the recital. The artist also spoke of the relationship of his Stradivarius violin, called the “Lipinski,” to the compositions on the program. There is speculation that Carl Lipinski (1790-1861) played all the works in the program (save for the Röntgen-Maier Sonata) with this violin.

Clara Schumann’s Romance from Op. 22 was the one encore, played flawlessly with wide vibrato and luminous tone from both performers.

This was clearly one of the finest violin recitals in the North Bay in many years.

Bay area violinist Bronislaw Rabin contributed to this review.