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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 it seems to be on almost every...
Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the season’s final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church, as the performers...
Chamber
TRIO NAVARRO'S POPULAR FARE IN SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 08, 2018
Long time Classical Sonoma readers may recall many Trio Navarro concert reviews that lauded their virtuosity and interest in rarely played repertoire. The April 8 concert in Schroeder Hall before 85 chamber music fans featured sterling performances but had a mostly conservative menu of popular trio...
Recital
KENNER'S ALL POLISH RECITAL HAS PADEREWSKI RARITY
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, April 08, 2018
Kevin Kenner’s April 8 recital at Dominican University’s Angelico Hall had been advertised as all-Chopin, but he added a detour into another seminal Polish composer-pianist, Paderewski. Several of Mr. Kenner’s teachers were Poles, he speaks Polish, and he navigated at the piano both composers’ deman...
Symphony
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE VOICE AT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, April 08, 2018
In an April 8 Santa Rosa Symphony concert filled to the brim with instruments--electric violin, vibraphone, marimba, xylophone, glockenspiel, keyboard samplers, harps, piano and myriad drums, gongs and bells, to say nothing of winds, brass and strings--the instrument that came out on top was the hum...
Chamber
VOM FESTIVAL TRIO CHARMS WITH CHAMBER MIX, AND HUMMEL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, March 31, 2018
At the core of the group of Valley of the Moon Music Festival (VOM) musicians is an ensemble of trios and duos, and as a trio March 31 Festival founders cellist Tanya Tomkins and pianist Eric Zivian joined British violinist Monica Huggett for a chamber music concert in the Green Music Center’s Schro...
Choral and Vocal
GOOD FRIDAY REQUIEM FILLS INCARNATION
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 30, 2018
Maurice Duruflé’s short and intense Requiem has been heard in Santa Rosa’s Church of the Incarnation before, but the March 30 Good Friday performance was stripped down in the number of performers, combining Cantiamo Sonoma and the St. Cecilia Choir with musical underpinning from organist Robert Youn...
Symphony
HAMELIN'S HUSKY MOOD IN SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 25, 2018
Convention in piano recitals has the artist coming on stage and playing. Canadian pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin walked on Schroeder Hall’s stage March 25 and didn’t play for six minutes, chatting with the audience. A risk for some artists. Then most programs include a contemporary or rarely play...
Recital
VIRTUOSIC VARIATIONS IN MORGAN'S SCHROEDER ORGAN RECITAL
by Paul Blanchard
Sunday, March 18, 2018
Organist Robert Huw Morgan’s artistry spun through the web of early variation form in a Mar. 18 recital on Schroeder Hall’s wonderful Brombaugh organ. Mr. Morgan, Stanford University’s resident organist, performs a wide range of repertoire, but as he said in comments to the audience, he loves when h...
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.