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Chamber
EXTRAVAGANT FUSION OF STYLES AT CHRIS BOTTI BAND WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Jerry Dibble
Sunday, August 12, 2018
Trumpeter Chris Botti still performs in jazz venues including SF Jazz and The Blue Note, but now appears mostly in cavernous halls or on outdoor stages like the Sonoma State University’s Green Music Center. He brought his unique road show to the packed Weill Hall August 12 in a concert of effusive e...
Chamber
SCHUBERT "MIT SCHLAG" AT VOM FESTIVAL MORNING CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 29, 2018
The spirit of 19th century Vienna was present July 29 on the final day of the Valley of the Moon Music Festival. The Festival in the second half of July glittered with innovative programming and the new, old sound of original instruments played by musicians who love music with historic instruments. ...
Chamber
PASSIONATE BRAHMS-SCHOENBERG MUSIC CLOSES VOM FESTIVAL SUMMER
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 29, 2018
An extraordinary program of chamber music by Brahms and Schoenberg attracted a capacity crowd to the Valley of the Moon Music Festival’s final concert July 29th in Sonoma’s Hanna Center. It opened with a richly expressive reading by Festival Laureate violinist Rachell Wong and pianist Jeffrey LaDeur...
Chamber
PRAGUE AND VIENNA PALACE GEMS HIGHLIGHT VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, July 28, 2018
The remarkable Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival presented a concert called “Kinsky Palace” July 28 on their final Festival weekend in Sonoma’s Hanna Center. Two well-known treasures and one lesser gem were programmed. Starting the afternoon offerings were violinist Monica Huggett and Fest...
Chamber
INNOVATIVE CHAMBER WORKS IN HANNA CENTER CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, July 22, 2018
The Valley of the Moon Music Festival presented a July 22 concert featuring three giants: Haydn, Schubert and Schumann, composers who altered music of their time with creative innovations and artistic vision. In the fourth season the Festival’s theme this year is “Vienna in Transition”, and VOM Fes...
Chamber
VIENNA INSPIRATION FOR VOM FESTIVAL PROGRAM AT HANNA CENTER
by Nicki Bell
Saturday, July 21, 2018
A music-loving audience filled Sonoma’s Hanna Center Auditorium July 21 to begin a record weekend of three concerts, produced by the Valley of the Moon Music Festival. The Festival’s theme this summer is “Venice in Transition – From the Enlightenment to the Dawn of Modernism” Prior to Saturday’s m...
Chamber
VANHAL QUARTET AT VOM FESTIVAL DISCOVERY AT HANNA CENTER
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 15, 2018
A near-capacity crowd of 220 filled the Sonoma Hanna Boys Center Auditorium July 15 for the opening concert of the fourth Valley of the Moon Music Festival. This Festival presents gems of the Classical and early Romantic periods performed on instruments of the composer’s era, which presents a few ch...
Opera
SPARKLING CIMAROSA OPERA HIGHLIGHTS MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kathryn Stewart
Friday, July 13, 2018
The Classical music era was a time of extraordinary innovation. Dominated by composers from the German-speaking countries, the period witnessed the handiwork of masterpieces by two classical giants, Haydn and Mozart. Both composers put forth a tremendous catalog of masterful works and perhaps to our...
Symphony
!PURA VIDA! A SONIC TRIUMPH FOR SO CO PHIL IN THRILLING COSTA RICA TOUR CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Long anticipated events, such as a great sporting game, gourmet feast, holiday trip or a concert, occasionally fall way short of expectations. The results don’t measure to expectations. With the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Costa Rica concert June 19, the performance exceeded any heated or tenuou...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
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!