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Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s Sonoma Overt...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
Chamber
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, perfor...
Symphony
AMERICAN CLASSICS SPARKLE UNDER KAHANE’S BATON
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Jeffrey Kahane, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s former conductor, returned to the Weill Hall podium on Saturday night, and the results were expectedly wonderful. The concert of American classics was by turns playful (Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”), emotional (Barber’s violin concerto) and triumphant (...
Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
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.