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Recital
HOME RECITAL BACH COMPLETES HOLIDAY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 30, 2017
The just closing 2017 year was a calamity for many, but locally in music there were joys galore, and it was fitting Dec. 30 have the balm of two Bach’s violin sonatas in a private Guerneville home recital hosted by the eminent musician Sonia Tubridy. Violinist Richard Heinberg joined Ms. Tubridy in...
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 WITH 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...
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!