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Chamber
THREE SONG CYCLES HIGHLIGHT VIBRANT SLV RECITAL
by Pamela Hicks-Gailey
Wednesday, May 08, 2019
An ambitious recital of vocal and piano music was presented May 8 at Santa Rosa’s Spring Lake Village by mezzo-soprano Kindra Scharich and pianist Jeffrey LaDeur. The duo engaged the enthusiastic audience with scholarly friendliness and artistry in performances of Beethoven's short cycle of six song...
Symphony
ALEXANDER TORADZE DELIVERS A LESSON IN SERENITY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 05, 2019
An entire concerto movement consisting of serene piano melodies over a soothing backdrop is probably not the first thing that springs to mind when seeing Shostakovich’s name on an orchestra program, but that’s exactly what pianist Alexander Toradze delivered--twice--at Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony c...
Symphony
MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON CLOSES WITH AUTUMNAL ELGAR AND THEATRICAL BEETHOVEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, April 28, 2019
Mozart’s enchanting Overture to his opera The Magic Flute, a miniature tapestry of gems from the 1791 work, opened the Marin Symphony’s final concert of the 2018-2019 season. Under conductor Alasdair Neale, the playing of the sprightly seven-minute piece by a reduced-size classical ensemble sparkled...
Recital
SHAHAM-EGUCHI DUO'S EXCITING MUSICAL GENEROSITY IN WEILL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, April 26, 2019
Violinist Gil Shaham may be the most modest virtuoso on the concert stage today, and it is the great music he most wishes to put forward, never himself. Generosity, a quality he is known for, was abundantly clear in Weill Hall April 26 when he performed, with pianist Akira Eguchi, a generous program...
Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s Sonoma Overt...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
Chamber
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, perfor...
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.