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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
Oakmont Concert Series / Thursday, December 11, 2008
Axel Strauss and Friends

CELLISTS SHINE IN OAKMONT SEASON FINALE

by
Monday, December 15, 2008

Violinist Axel Strauss brought four of his favorite chamber musician friends Dec. 11 to Oakmont’s Berger Auditorium in for the final concert of the 18th season. The program opened with Anton Arensky’s Quartet No. 2 in A Minor, Op. 35, No. 2, for violin, viola and two cellos, and concluded with Franz Schubert‘s famous String Quintet in C Major, D. 956, for two violins, viola and two cellos. His colleagues for this concert were violinist Leonie Bot, violist Ben Simon and husband-and-wife cellists Jean-Michel and Dana Putnam Fonteneau.

The Bay Area is rich in fine string players and German-born Strauss is at or near the top of his profession. His violin playing is technically secure, musically nuanced, electric when called for, and he produces a gorgeous sound that always plays to the character and direction of the music. Results can be mixed in concerts based on the “And Friends” format, as unlike pre-formed chamber ensembles that play together on a regular basis, when “friends” get together there is usually less rehearsal time and therefore a greater possibility of a less-than-polished performance. Conversely, the air can be charged with spontaneity and electricity, given the newness of the ensemble. Happily at this concert the latter mostly occurred

Both in style and temperament the Russian Anton Arensky shows considerable affinity to Tchaikovsky. He lived and flourished in Moscow in the last half of the 19th century, and his output was modest. This string quartet, one of two he penned, rarely gets a hearing because its instrumentation does not match that of the traditional quartet of two violins, viola and cello. The dark character of the piece is enhanced by the predominance of lower strings. It is an uneven work, and most who hear it would agree that its middle movement, “Variations on a Theme of Tchaikovsky”, is where its strength lies. Here Arensky masters the theme and variations form, and it seems perfectly constructed, with calibrated use of many of the string instrument’s colorful capabilities: pizzicato, mute, ponticello. While the ensemble was not perfect, the players gave this movement a prismatic and heartfelt reading, and Dana Fonteneau distinguished herself in the elegant principal cello part.

After intermission, the musicians brought their old friend Franz Schubert to the stage, and played his hour-long Quintet about as well as I’ve ever heard it. If this concert was a treat for fans of the cello, the Schubert Quintet adroitly contributed as it contains one of the most beautiful cello duets in the chamber literature. The luscious first-movement theme returns often, to sublime effect. The cellists Fonteneau gave it a tender reading, their sounds beautifully matched. Strauss is a superb leader, and his virtuosity drove this monumental Quintet right through to the last note, prompting an immediate standing ovation from the audience of 200.