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Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
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.