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Choral and Vocal
A SEASONAL MESSIAH WITH BALANCE AND HEFT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 10, 2017
The mid-December concert season seems for jaded reviewers to invariably include a Messiah performance, and perhaps a Messiah in a long string of similar and mundane performances. This was decidedly not the case when San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque mounted Handel’s eminent three-part 1742 Orato...
Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony concert featured two elegant and refined guests: music director candidate Andrew Grams and pianist Stewart Goodyear. Both displayed dazzling technique and consummate artistry, but Goodyear was the more consistent of the two. Some of Grams’ inconsistency may have st...
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 ...
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.