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Symphony
MENDELSSOHN'S SCOTTISH SAVES THE EVENING IN SRS WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Monday, February 11, 2019
The audience entering Weill Hall for Santa Rosa Symphony concerts Feb. 9-11 were presented with a program that on first glance appeared a curious patchwork – a great symphony mixed with a seldom heard concerto and two disparate overtures, and a guest conductor unknown locally. Monday night’s concer...
Recital
INTRIGUING BELL-HAYWOOD RECITAL BEFORE FULL HOUSE IN WEILL HALL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, February 08, 2019
A big portion of the capacity audience in Weill Hall February 8th came to hear violinist Joshua Bell’s virtuosity, and were treated as well to splendid playing from Sam Haywood, Mr. Bell’s regular pianist since 2010. The duo performed three engaging sonatas, highlighted by Mr. Bell’s sterling techn...
Symphony
TRIPLE PLAY UKIAH SYMPHONY CONCERT AND TCHAIKOVSKY SERENADE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Over the years the Ukiah Symphony’s concerts have been in the Classical Sonoma Calendar sections, but rarely has this Orchestra, now in its 39th season, had a full winter season concert review. The provocative Jan. 27 program in Mendocino College’s Center Theater seemed a good reason to reacquaint ...
Symphony
JACKSON THEATER WELCOMES A NEW RESIDENT ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Moving to a permanent new performance venue can be a perilous undertaking for an orchestra, with different acoustics, the loyal audience finding the new spot and infrastructure challenges of lighting and lobby and backstage operations. In their first concert Jan. 26 in Windsor’s Jackson Theater the...
Symphony
ECLECTIC PASSIONATE PROGRAMMING AT MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 26, 2019
The Marin Symphony’s second Masterworks concert of the 2018-19 season featured works by John Adams, Sibelius and Brahms, a masterful assembly. In a spoken introduction before the program’s first half, conductor Alasdair Neale primed the audience for the “terra incognita” of Adams’ The Chairman Dance...
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...
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.