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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 Rosaís Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San Josť, Costa Ricaís 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 Countyís 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 Hallís residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLERíS FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the universityís stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the universityís 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. SaŽnsí majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec lí...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago ďGolden EraĒ of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didnít play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuberís work to the publicís attention, and now they seem to be on almost ever...
Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the seasonís final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopolís Community Church, as the performers...
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!Ē, 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.Ē 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.