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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 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
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 County’s 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 Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s 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. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s 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 season’s 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 Sebastopol’s Community Church, as the performers...
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.