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Recital
HOME RECITAL BACH COMPLETES HOLIDAY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 30, 2017
The just closing 2017 year was a calamity for many, but locally in music there were joys galore, and it was fitting Dec. 30 have the balm of two Bach’s violin sonatas in a private Guerneville home recital hosted by the eminent musician Sonia Tubridy. Violinist Richard Heinberg joined Ms. Tubridy in...
Choral and Vocal
A SEASONAL MESSIAH WITH BALANCE AND HEFT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 10, 2017
The mid-December concert season seems for jaded reviewers to invariably include a Messiah performance, and perhaps a Messiah in a long string of similar and mundane performances. This was decidedly not the case when San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque mounted Handel’s eminent three-part 1742 Orato...
Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE WITH SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony concert featured two elegant and refined guests: music director candidate Andrew Grams and pianist Stewart Goodyear. Both displayed dazzling technique and consummate artistry, but Goodyear was the more consistent of the two. Some of Grams’ inconsistency may have st...
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...
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.