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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...
Chamber
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the ...
Symphony
CONDUCTOR PLAYOFFS BEGIN IN SANTA ROSA
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 08, 2017
The Santa Rosa Symphony is calling 2017-18 “a choice season” because the next few months offer the audience and the symphony’s board of directors a chance to choose a new conductor from a pool of five candidates. Each candidate will lead a three-concert weekend set this fall and winter, with a final...
Recital
PIANISTIC COMMAND IN SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, October 08, 2017
Nikolay Khozyainov’s Oct. 8 debut at the Green Music Center’s Schroeder Hall was one of those rare moments in a young artist’s career when a performance approaches perfection. From the opening notes of Beethoven’s A-Flat Major Sonata (Op. 110) through a delightful recital ending transcription, 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.