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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...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now they seem to be on almost ever...
OTHER REVIEW
Mendocino Music Festival / Thursday, July 21, 2016
Susan Waterfall, pianist and lecturer

Tener Brian Thorsett

LATE BEETHOVEN EXPLORED AT MMF CONCERT IN PRESTON HALL

by Paula Mulligan
Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Mendocino Music Festival performance in Preston Hall July 22 was titled “Late Beethoven,” and was the final presentation in the tribute to the composer that was part of this year’s Festival.  Pianist Susan Waterfall has been giving a series of lecture dealing with Beethoven’s life and music, and the final event concentrated on the works he produced in the last fourteen years of his life.

Beginning the program was tenor Brian Thorsett with pianist Miles Graber performing the cycle of six songs, An die ferne Geliebte. The lyrics express the composer’s feelings of loneliness and rejection, but finally evolve to a resolution that leaves him forever devoted but accepting his fate.   Mr. Thorsett has a fine lyrical tenor voice that never shows strain, and his voice floats easily in his upper range and descends with full sonority into the upper register of a baritone.  In addition his performance was infused with tender feeling and wistfulness that perfectly suited the text and music.

The E Major Piano Sonata (Op. 109) written in 1820, and was  beautifully played by Ms. Waterfall, after an enlightening verbal introduction by the performer which seemed helpful to audience to understand the music and its relevance to that period of the composer’s life.  It was a performance of renunciation, resignation and finally acceptance.  Ms. Waterfall‘s elegant and passionate interpretation showed the turbulence and conflict of two battling themes that describe the impossible relationship the composer longed for. Even as the work resolves itself into acceptance, it is not without the scowl and growl in the left hand line that merges with the sweet remembrance of what is no more.   

The final work was one of the famous “Late Quartets” that Beethoven wrote in the last two and a half years of his life.  The Peregrine Quartet chose the A Minor Quartet, Op. 132. The work is in four movements, beginning with a modified sonata form Allegro leading without interruption into the second movement. The mellow opening note from cellist Burke Schuchmann was immediately followed with the layered buildup from Alexander Volonts’ remarkable viola tone, then Tingting Gu’s gentle but insistent second violin, and finally topped with Tammie Dyer’s silvery upper register violin sound, light flexible and airy.  Ms Dyer illustrates that one can lead and guide a chamber ensemble without relying on volume and dominance, but rather on a gentle and profoundly moving sound that guides her fellow musicians into a unity.    The insistent phrase in this first movement is passed around to each member of the quartet  and is repeated in two recapitulations. 

The second movement has a similar plaintive motif that is repeated throughout, and the inner voices carry the smooth flowing line with ornaments above from the first violin and comments from the cello below.  The playing of the second violin and viola are often not in the forefront but they are the bonding glue that holds everything together. Ms. Gu’s sound is just as authoritative, yet with a different tonal quality than Ms. Dyer’s. Her subtly accented entrances made each inner phrase stand out.  Mr. Volonts viola has a large and magnificent sound and he showed admirable restraint and unleashed the instrument’s full power only in the angry fortissimo passages, which created a powerful dramatic contrast to the more subtle and wistful parts of the 1825 work.

Beethoven wrote the third movement as a “Holy Thanksgiving for his healing” after a near death experience.  The sound here is somber, transparent and almost sacred.  The birdlike exchanges between the first and second violins floated above the viola and cello’s pizzicato punctuation. The dancelike opening of the final Allegro Appassionato showed the skill of the musicians with clean attacks, wonderfully synchronized pauses, and  passion with restraint.  It is good to be reminded that the silences in music are often as important as the music itself. 

The late Beethoven quartets are complex and challenging, and the Peregrine more than met the challenge for a deeply satisfying concert experience.