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Chamber
UNEXPECTED ARENSKY AND MENDELSSOHN BY THE NAVARRO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
The 100 people entering Schroeder Hall Feb. 17 for a Trio Navarro concert were handed a program that appeared to feature two popular piano trios, Mendelssohn and Arensky. But continuing the Navarro’s tradition of repertoire exploration, the pieces were not the usual first Mendelssohn and first Aren...
Symphony
MENDELSSOHN'S SCOTTISH SAVES THE EVENING IN SRS WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Monday, February 11, 2019
The audience entering Weill Hall for Santa Rosa Symphony concerts Feb. 9-11 were presented with a program that on first glance appeared a curious patchwork – a great symphony mixed with a seldom heard concerto and two disparate overtures, and a guest conductor unknown locally. Monday night’s concer...
Recital
INTRIGUING BELL-HAYWOOD RECITAL BEFORE FULL HOUSE IN WEILL HALL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, February 08, 2019
A big portion of the capacity audience in Weill Hall February 8th came to hear violinist Joshua Bell’s virtuosity, and were treated as well to splendid playing from Sam Haywood, Mr. Bell’s regular pianist since 2010. The duo performed three engaging sonatas, highlighted by Mr. Bell’s sterling techn...
Symphony
TRIPLE PLAY UKIAH SYMPHONY CONCERT AND TCHAIKOVSKY SERENADE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Over the years the Ukiah Symphony’s concerts have been in the Classical Sonoma Calendar sections, but rarely has this Orchestra, now in its 39th season, had a full winter season concert review. The provocative Jan. 27 program in Mendocino College’s Center Theater seemed a good reason to reacquaint ...
Symphony
JACKSON THEATER WELCOMES A NEW RESIDENT ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Moving to a permanent new performance venue can be a perilous undertaking for an orchestra, with different acoustics, the loyal audience finding the new spot and infrastructure challenges of lighting and lobby and backstage operations. In their first concert Jan. 26 in Windsor’s Jackson Theater the...
Symphony
ECLECTIC PASSIONATE PROGRAMMING AT MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 26, 2019
The Marin Symphony’s second Masterworks concert of the 2018-19 season featured works by John Adams, Sibelius and Brahms, a masterful assembly. In a spoken introduction before the program’s first half, conductor Alasdair Neale primed the audience for the “terra incognita” of Adams’ The Chairman Dance...
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...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Marin Symphony / Sunday, February 28, 2016
Alasdair Neale, conductor. Robert BelinIc, guitar

Guitarist Robert Belinic

SERIOUS MARIN MUSIC ON OSCAR NIGHT

by Kate Gilpin
Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Marin Symphony once again demonstrated Feb. 28 its consistent excellence with its Masterworks 2 program, the “Romance of Rodrigo.” The program was performed for an audience that filled most of the 2,000-seat Marin Center Auditorium included Rodrigo’s popular Concierto de Aranjuez (1939) and two Brahms works, the E Minor Symphony and the Op. 81 Tragic Overture.

Conductor Alasdair Neale noted in his introductory remarks, along with the promise that the audience would be home in time to critique the dresses at the Oscar awards ceremonies, that the afternoon’s program was “unapologetically serious,” which was certainly true, but the trio of works also provided the audience with a generous share of hope and spirit.

Brahms’ 1881 work was written in the same summer as the Academic Festival Overture, and was to some extent intended as a melancholy foil to the much brighter Academic Festival piece. The composer famously remarked that “one laughs while the other weeps.” The work’s three sections (Allegro ma non troppo, Molto più moderato, Tempo primo ma tranquillo) begin with a dramatic, full-orchestra two-chord statement (the “hammer blow”) and moves tumultuously on its way to establishing the D minor key that characterizes the entire work. Moving through the first theme, horns and strings give way to a second theme in which the strings predominate, then a return to the full-orchestra opening theme. The development echoes the earlier section, but with a difference, and woodwinds are featured. The final section is relatively short, but includes a return to the opening theme and a chorale that includes the horns, trombones, and tuba. The work ends with an extended coda. This performance proved a seamless connection between the various orchestra sections, and the audience signaled its enthusiasm with resounding and extended applause.

Rodrigo’s Concerto, a beautiful guitar work inspired by the splendid gardens of an eighteenth-century royal Spanish palace, was performed by Croatian guitarist Robert Belinić. The soloist played with a sensitivity, fire and virtuosity that was powerfully impressive.

The concerto, whose movements are Allegro con spirito, Adagio, Allegro gentile, begins with a joyous and elegant solo guitar theme suggesting flamenco. The orchestra enters delicately with the woodwinds, followed by strings and, later, subtle trumpets, and a cello solo. The orchestra is never allowed to overwhelm the solo instrument, with the result that they complement each other perfectly, in a wonderfully playful conversation, finally ending in a subdued finish that suggests a procession that has moved on.

The Adagio, famous in its own right and made more so by the jazz trumpeter Miles Davis’ interpretation decades back, begins, as in the first movement, with a repeated arpeggio for guitar that introduces the melody, taken then by the English horn. The theme is deeply melancholy, repeated by the guitarist, and followed by a dialogue between the two instruments while the strings accompany. Over the course of the movement the theme becomes both more highly ornamented and more emotionally intense, with an underlying insistent beat that suggests tragic inevitability, culminating in a cadenza of great passion. The orchestra re-enters, and the movement ends in quiet resignation. The Allegro gentile returns to the mood of the first movement in being very spirited, again starting with a solo and inviting the orchestra to join. The movement consists of two main themes, both sunny and refined, and ends on a repeated whimsical single note of the guitar. Throughout the concerto Mr. Belinić displayed technical proficiency combined with emotional commitment that was clear in every measure, and the audience responded with a standing ovation. There was no encore from the soloist.

Following intermission Mr. Neale again addressed the audience to dedicate this performance of the Brahms Fourth to his teacher Otto-Werner Mueller, who had died only two days before.

Brahms’s Fourth is never truly jocular (this symphony was first performed in the year that premiered Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado), but in his last symphony is always profound. The Allegro non Troppofirst movement is in traditional sonata form, but with themes that are of a richly Romantic nature, expressing a sense of the sorrow and dignity of the human condition. The second movement (Andante moderato) moves to the major tonality, but also uses modal harmonies that are haunting.

The third movement is unique in the Brahms symphonies by having a genuine scherzo, but even here, in C major, the expression seems more triumphant than light-hearted, and includes more serious musical ideas as well. Last, the Allegro energico e passionate has the quality of theme and variations, with beautiful playing by the separate orchestra sections and a variety of soloists. This finale is an emotional tour de force, and the Marin Symphony delivered the composer’s message darkly and deeply, with consummate artistry. The audience applauded after each movement but at the work’s 1885 premiere, attended by the composer, the Meiningen, Germany, audience applauded after each movement.