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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...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
CHORAL AND VOCAL REVIEW
Mastercard Performance Series / Sunday, November 27, 2016
Vienna Boys Choir

Vienna Boys Choir in Weill Hall

EARLY CHRISTMAS SEASON TRIUMPH FOR 24 ANGELS IN WEILL

by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, November 27, 2016

Weill Hall Nov. 27 was packed with an audience of young and old excitedly waiting for an early holiday concert by the Vienna Boys Choir, and this esteemed Choir is a five-hundred year institution which is based in a school of 100 choristers. Four touring groups divide their time between studying and world tours, and their ages are between nine and fourteen. Alumni include Joseph and Michael Haydn and Schubert.

The Sonoma County weather had turned cold but the twenty four youngsters emerged singing a Gregorian chant "to you I have lifted my soul” (Psalm 24) and warmed many hearts and captivated audience ears for upwards of two hours. Led by their remarkable conductor and pianist, Jimmy Chiang, they started with early repertoire in the first hour, gradually moving through the centuries as the concert unfolded. Mr. Chiang took some moments to greet the audience with great charm, and acknowledged that this Christmas program was somewhat early in the season. However, these boys in their sailor suits had traveled far and effortlessly moved the audience into a festive mood.

After the opening unison singing, a Sanctus by Jacobus de Kerle (1531-1591), provided a showcase for a cappella singing that filled the hall and was intriguing with complex dissonant voice leading. There was excellent variety of dynamics and tempo. Fux’s Salve Regina added Mr. Chiang as pianist, and he conducted from the piano which was positioned center stage with singers on either side. Joseph Haydn's "Mad and Useless Worries" was dramatic and vibrant with beautifully shaped vocal phrases.  Michael Haydn's "Anima nostra" has a text about our souls being set free like a bird from a net. Here the setting used a solo soprano juxtaposed with the full choir and then duo soloists alternating as well. Each song had the singers grouped in different configurations, often highlighting the contrasts between young boy soprano fragility and full rich treble harmonies.

A Mozart selection from a Cantata (K. 619) began with a recitative sung with pure child's voice and the special natural innocence often lost in the glories of trained professional adults. The Mozart was well performed with attention to rhythmical clarity and phrasing. The text is a marvel of profound thoughts on life, mankind and the world and wisdom sung by the young: "Love order and symmetry and harmony. Love yourselves and your brothers!" Mr. Chiang's accompaniments were were always balanced and delightfully nuanced, the playing of a consummate musician.

A special selection was next, a modern a cappella piece: Mercy-Forgiveness-Inner peace -Agnus Dei (1965), by Gerald Wirth, artistic director and president of the Vienna Boys Choir. A simple rising motive at the start led to a soaring descant over a drone, a staccato "miserere" and attractive jazzy syncopated figures. This was sung with commitment and fervor, and was a fine introduction to Mr. Wirth as a composer.

A second surprise was Lerner and Loewe's "On the Street Where You Live" from the Broadway show “My Fair Lady.” The thematic connection to Vienna was the fact the Loewe's family was from Vienna. The piano accompaniment was lively and the singers were relaxed and sang with enthusiasm. Further selections featured waltz and polka-inspired songs by Viennese composers Josef Strauss and Joseph Lanner. The choir sparkled and the music danced, describing in humorous texts the joys of traveling and a zoo coming to life in the night. Here, before intermission, the audience on their feet applauding vigorously.

After the break, standard Christmas carols, some arranged by Mr. Wirth, were performed with expert and polished singing and occasional choreography. A cappella versions of Adeste Fidelis and “Lo How a Rose” presented subtle dynamics with moments of wonderful quiet beauty. O Heiland, arranged by Mr. Wirth, was effective with its unison ending and Kletke's “Am Weinachtsbaum” contained a humming bagpipe effect as accompaniment, varying the verse textures. Two ecstatic pieces, a solo Schubert Ave Maria and Pueri Concinete by Ritter von Herbeck, soared through the hall and represented the Romantic tradition, followed by a touching arrangement of a Tyrolean lullaby, "It will be dark soon". 

The 20th century was ushered in with four movements of Britten's Ceremony of Carols, gracefully and expertly accompanied on the piano instead of harp.  Originally composed for treble voices, the tempo was often extremely brisk, providing intense energy interspersed with the sweet upper voice slower sections.

Wild clapping and shouts of appreciation brought three encores after a final and jazzy “Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer.” A sweet “Silent Night” calmed the tumult. Then the choir sang “Goodbye, Aufwiedersehen” from the Broadway show “The Sound of Music,” with various groups waving and moving away. The last encore was a lively “Feliz Navidad” with the audience joining the boys' clapping.

These twenty four angels of song from Vienna presented an elegant and touching musical journey and brightened the early holiday season.

Nicki Bell contributed to this review.