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Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
Chamber
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the ...
Symphony
CONDUCTOR PLAYOFFS BEGIN IN SANTA ROSA
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 08, 2017
The Santa Rosa Symphony is calling 2017-18 “a choice season” because the next few months offer the audience and the symphony’s board of directors a chance to choose a new conductor from a pool of five candidates. Each candidate will lead a three-concert weekend set this fall and winter, with a final...
Recital
PIANISTIC COMMAND IN SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, October 08, 2017
Nikolay Khozyainov’s Oct. 8 debut at the Green Music Center’s Schroeder Hall was one of those rare moments in a young artist’s career when a performance approaches perfection. From the opening notes of Beethoven’s A-Flat Major Sonata (Op. 110) through a delightful recital ending transcription, the ...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Oakmont Concert Series / Thursday, December 11, 2008
Axel Strauss and Friends

CELLISTS SHINE IN OAKMONT SEASON FINALE

by Joan Lounsbery
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.