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Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
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.