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Recital
HOME RECITAL BACH COMPLETES HOLIDAY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 30, 2017
The just closing 2017 year was a calamity for many, but locally in music there were joys galore, and it was fitting Dec. 30 have the balm of two Bach’s violin sonatas in a private Guerneville home recital hosted by the eminent musician Sonia Tubridy. Violinist Richard Heinberg joined Ms. Tubridy in...
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 WITH 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 REVIEW
Mastercard Performance Series / Sunday, December 13, 2015
Pacifica Quartet.. Simin Ganatra and Sibbi Bernhardsson, violin; Masumi Per Rostad, viola; Brandon Vamos, cello. Orion Weis, piano

Pacifica String Quartet

LOFTY EMOTIONS IN PACIFICA'S WEILL HALL CONCERT

by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Pacifica Quartet Dec. 13 presented a Weill Hall program of string quartets by Beethoven and Janacek, followed by Brahms' remarkable Op. 34 Piano Quintet with pianist Orion Weiss. Formed in 1994, the Pacifica Quartet includes violinists Simin Ganatra and Sibbi Bernhardssohn, violist Masumi Per Rostad and Brandon Vamos on cello.

Beethoven's final quartet in F Major (Op. 135) came first, and the opening movement was played with understated and subtle shaping, phrases passed around with a cohesiveness of sound enhanced with body language that carried the music visually as well. The quiet dynamics were haunting and captivating, the playful harmonic and melodic changes by turns bold or sweet. The four musicians breathed this music as one heart and mind.

The second movement featured agitated syncopations, ominous unison notes and a humorous tipsy peasant dance. This music was so full of musical jokes that at the final chord the audience audibly chuckled. The Lent assai was deeply moving in the quiet legato and meditative offerings of rising thirds and sixths, serenity and dark colors transforming through canons to spiritual worlds beyond. The fourth movement has the words "Muss es sein?" marked in the score and the main theme uses the rhythm of that question with tragic character until the music bursts into an exuberant Allegro. The answer, written "Es muss sein!”, is positive.

Janacek composed his String Quartet No. 2 (Intimate Letters) at a time in his life when he was consumed with unrequited love for a very young woman. He sent her 700 love letters and composed this quartet inspired by his powerful emotions, and wrote: "I maintain that a pure musical note means nothing unless it is pinned down in life, blood and locale.” The first movement startles with a bang on the cello and an anguished whisper played on the viola. This music has rapid shifts of emotion and is unquiet and never calm. There are Hungarian Gypsy influences and eastern European modal sounds. violent outbursts and then lovely moments with a melody on the viola accompanied by eerie high bell sounds.

The charming second movement features viola and cello passages, and then shifts to tragic love and uncertainty. The third movement has a simple rhythmical theme, repeated with constant small changes. There are profuse amounts of trills and special effects on the instruments. The last movement has constantly shifting tempi. It moves through dances, trills, silence and unexpected effects. The musicians often seem to play to the limits of expressiveness and there are startling sounds juxtaposed with sweet lyrical moments. Thus the listener is constantly swept into the unexpected and unsettling emotional world of the composer. It was a fascinating and intriguing performance of music deeply personal but steeped in folk idioms and a creative power moving into the 20th century. There were shouts of approval from the attentive audience.

After intermission the Pacifica returned with pianist Orion Weiss for the F Minor Brahms Quintet. The medium of piano quintet was quite new when Brahms reworked what had been string quintet, then a sonata for two pianos, into a quintet for piano and strings. This performance was notable for dynamic restraint where appropriate and intelligent building of musical tension and careful layering of dense textures. Brahms composed this with a virtuoso piano part pitted against a full string quartet, often creating extremely thick sonorities. In this interpretation, details were sometimes sacrificed for the large gesture. However, for the most part the balance between Mr. Weiss and his partners was excellent.

The initial movement started wistfully and moved quickly to grandeur. A brisk tempo gave the piano part the effect of gestures and cascades rather than clarity of notes and this enhanced the passionate string playing. The recapitulation was magnificent with lovely violin cello interaction and the coda was truly symphonic. The piano playing in the second movement was heartfelt and direct with an ecstatic combining of instruments at the end. This was followed by a scherzo initiated by single cello beats ushering in wild syncopations that lead to a triumphant wild dance and fugal passages and a contrasting melodic trio. In Weill the heart-stopping speed of the scherzo came at the expense of some clarity. The fourth movement opened with a slow impassioned introduction leading into a cello and piano duet. This then expands into sections of hot-blooded, almost uncivilized playing countered by ecstatic intimate passages.

At the finish, most members of the audience jumped to their feet with loud cries of enthusiasm and extended applause.