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Chamber
EXTRAVAGANT FUSION OF STYLES AT CHRIS BOTTI BAND WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Jerry Dibble
Sunday, August 12, 2018
Trumpeter Chris Botti still performs in jazz venues including SF Jazz and The Blue Note, but now appears mostly in cavernous halls or on outdoor stages like the Sonoma State University’s Green Music Center. He brought his unique road show to the packed Weill Hall August 12 in a concert of effusive e...
Chamber
SCHUBERT "MIT SCHLAG" AT VOM FESTIVAL MORNING CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 29, 2018
The spirit of 19th century Vienna was present July 29 on the final day of the Valley of the Moon Music Festival. The Festival in the second half of July glittered with innovative programming and the new, old sound of original instruments played by musicians who love music with historic instruments. ...
Chamber
PASSIONATE BRAHMS-SCHOENBERG MUSIC CLOSES VOM FESTIVAL SUMMER
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 29, 2018
An extraordinary program of chamber music by Brahms and Schoenberg attracted a capacity crowd to the Valley of the Moon Music Festival’s final concert July 29th in Sonoma’s Hanna Center. It opened with a richly expressive reading by Festival Laureate violinist Rachell Wong and pianist Jeffrey LaDeur...
Chamber
PRAGUE AND VIENNA PALACE GEMS HIGHLIGHT VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, July 28, 2018
The remarkable Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival presented a concert called “Kinsky Palace” July 28 on their final Festival weekend in Sonoma’s Hanna Center. Two well-known treasures and one lesser gem were programmed. Starting the afternoon offerings were violinist Monica Huggett and Fest...
Chamber
INNOVATIVE CHAMBER WORKS IN HANNA CENTER CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, July 22, 2018
The Valley of the Moon Music Festival presented a July 22 concert featuring three giants: Haydn, Schubert and Schumann, composers who altered music of their time with creative innovations and artistic vision. In the fourth season the Festival’s theme this year is “Vienna in Transition”, and VOM Fes...
Chamber
VIENNA INSPIRATION FOR VOM FESTIVAL PROGRAM AT HANNA CENTER
by Nicki Bell
Saturday, July 21, 2018
A music-loving audience filled Sonoma’s Hanna Center Auditorium July 21 to begin a record weekend of three concerts, produced by the Valley of the Moon Music Festival. The Festival’s theme this summer is “Venice in Transition – From the Enlightenment to the Dawn of Modernism” Prior to Saturday’s m...
Chamber
VANHAL QUARTET AT VOM FESTIVAL DISCOVERY AT HANNA CENTER
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 15, 2018
A near-capacity crowd of 220 filled the Sonoma Hanna Boys Center Auditorium July 15 for the opening concert of the fourth Valley of the Moon Music Festival. This Festival presents gems of the Classical and early Romantic periods performed on instruments of the composer’s era, which presents a few ch...
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 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.