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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...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
RECITAL REVIEW
Mastercard Performance Series / Friday, March 11, 2016
Lawrence Brownlee, tenor

Tenor Lawrence Brownlee

STUNNING BROWNLEE RECITAL IN WEILL CAPPED BY HIGH C'S

by Peter Benecke
Friday, March 11, 2016

Tenor Lawrence Brownlee gave a March 11 Weill Hall recital that treated those who were willing to brave the elements to an evening of great artistry, sensitivity and vocal perfection. The musical world has come to expect seamless agility, vocal fireworks and seemingly endless high notes from the bel canto tenor, and with his flawless technique, Mr. Brownlee demonstrated these qualities and more in an evening of intimate lyricism and heartfelt communication.

The program opened with four songs from a well-known collection of 24 early Italian songs and Arias. These are often considered beginner’s pieces, yet here they were a lesson in mastery of style and expression. Mr. Brownlee showed impeccable style and technique with each one. These were followed by two Bellini songs in which Mr. Brownlee demonstrated himself to be a master of legato singing. The second of these, “La Ricordanza,” is an almost mirror image of the famous melody from the opera I Puritani, “Qui la Voce,” beloved as a soprano aria for its haunting beauty.

With pianist John Churchwell, Mr. Brownlee had found a worthy partner. His tour de force performance of the introduction to Rossini’s beloved concert piece” La Danza” could have stood alone, with Mr. Churchwell leaving the keyboard nearly smoking! Mr. Brownlee was equal to the challenge of the opening salvo and matched its brilliance with a vocal presentation that left listeners nearly breathless. The tenor clearly had fun with it and brought the audience to cheers. This was followed by two more of Rossini’s more lyric pieces of depth and expression, “L’esule” and “La Lontananza.” Rossini was a singer himself and his vocal works show a variety of moods and colors, ideally suited to the voice.

The first half finished with two favorite Neapolitan songs by Tosti, “L’ideale” and “Marechiare,” and they were enthusiastically received by an audience that was now well aware that they were hearing a special and unique evening of singing.

After intermission the artist announced that he was going to “break down the fourth wall.” With a few words he transformed the opulent Weill into an intimate space where every person felt that the tenor sang for him or her alone. He started with a set of Irish lyrics arranged by his friend Ben Moore. Mr. Moore is a singer and originally wrote the songs for himself, but after meeting and working with Mr. Brownlee, set them in higher keys to suit a high tenor voice. The resulting extraordinary pieces on texts by James Joyce and William Butler Yeats combine classical style with blues and jazz elements. Mr. Brownlee sang them with exquisite dynamic control.

Keeping the spirit of the broken fourth wall, Mr. Brownlee invited the audience members to sing along in “It Ain’t Necessarily So” from Gershwin’s iconic Porgy and Bess, followed by masterful presentation of Sportin’ Life’s aria from that same opera, “There’s a Boat Dat’s Leaving Soon For New York.”

The final offering on the program was a set of spirituals given modern settings by composer Damien Sneed. It was here that Mr. Brownlee opened his heart, sharing with the audience the story of his mother’s favorite song “Sinner Please Don’t Let This Harvest Pass” and speaking openly as a father of the challenge of his international career that takes him away from home for so much of his young children’s lives. “All Night, All Day (Angels Watchin’ Over Me)” he has nicknamed “Caleb’s Song,” for the five-year old son he so often leaves behind while touring.

Bowing to the enthusiastic applause, Mr. Brownlee returned to the stage for an encore. Without introduction and to the audience’s evident delight, he began the aria “Ah mes amis” from Donizetti’s opera Daughter of the Regiment, famous for its nine high Cs! With astonishing ease, after a full program of demanding, virtuosic singing, Mr. Brownlee conquered them all, holding the final high note so long that the audience was left gasping for air and leaping to its feet as one!