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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...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Green Music Center / Sunday, February 28, 2016
Cypress String Quartet Cecily Ward and Tom Stone,violin; Ethan Filner, viola; Jennifer Kloetzel, cello

Cypress String Quartet in Schroeder Feb. 28

VALEDICTORY CYPRESS QUARTET CONCERT IN SCHROEDER

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 28, 2016

Parting can be such sweet sorrow, but better than either was the Cypress String Quartet’s farewell North Bay concert Feb. 28 in Schroeder. The group will disband in June in their San Francisco hometown.

Violinist Tom Stone’s remarks to the audience of 175 about Haydn set the stage for sure-footed performance of the C Major Quartet, Op. 76, No. 3. Schroeder’s acoustics seemed to favor cellist Jennifer Kloetzel’s sound, even the drone effects, but throughout the opening Allegro and in the long duo for two violins in the Adagio every instrument carried well and blended.

In the Variations each instrument has a solo in turn, then bursts forth the composer’s resplendent Austrian/German national hymn. The Minuetto was played with a judicious tempo, with many delicate details and spicatto bowings. Violinists Cecily Ward and Mr. Stone traded fast descending scales in the finale and the Cypress fashioned a reading of the “Emperor” Quartet of rich string color and rhythmic precision. It was a splendid blend of Haydn’s elegance and simple earthiness.

Glazunov wrote five Novelettes for string quartet, and the three played to close the first half were Allegretto ala spagnuola, Interludium and Orientale. There were well played but passed without much notice, even juxtaposing the pizzicato dances of the first and the sorrowful and pensive second. Violist Ethan Filner, seated at stage right, played solos in themes that were reminiscent of Vaughan Williams music. The whirling short motives of the Orientale were the most effective, rustic to the last bowed note in a unison attack. It was an odd program choice, but clearly relished by the Cypress.

In their 20 years together the Cypress has played through the Beethoven cycle many times, and the choice of the B-Flat Quartet (Op. 130) was an opportunity to say goodbye to the North Bay with a work of monumental power and interest. The 1826 piece is in six movements, with an optional finale, and Ms. Kloetzel described to the audience how the Quartet approaches Beethoven, and why the Grosse Fuge last movement was chosen for performance over the alternative Allegro.

Both the opening Adagio and the finale appear to be struggles between two instincts of an individual – the imploring instinct and the instinct of violence. They played the Adagio in a more lyrical manner than anticipated, with many small phrases starting to go astray but never actually doing it. The skittish B Minor Scherzo was quickly over, and the following Andante was played fancifully and almost intimately.
I thought both the Danza Tedesca and the E-Flat Major cavatina movements were performed exquisitely, the tranquil and restrained emotion phrases beautifully shaped. Capturing here the essence of Beethoven’s spiritual energy was for me the highlight of the afternoon, and the Cypress’ deft changes in tempo were both natural and critical to this luminescent music.

The great Fugue invites comparison with the Op. 106 Piano Sonata Fugue, as both have a slow but never timid middle section between the often-strident outer parts. But the string fugue is harder to follow, even with ample thematic projection from Ms. Ward and Mr. Filner cutting through the aural din, pedal point in the cello and minimal vibrato all around. This movement lasted 14 minutes, not too long but since 1826 still demanding a listener’s attentive ear and exploring mind.

Surprisingly, the Cypress responded to an ovation with one encore, which I think was Suk’s Venetian Gondola Song. And a sweet poem without words it was, a valedictory gift capping a masterful concert.

Sonia Morse Tubridy contributed to this review.