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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 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...
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 REVIEW
Green Music Center / Sunday, March 12, 2017
Akademie Fur Alte Musik Berlin

Akademie fur Alte Musik Berlin

FOREIGN AFFAIRS CHARACTERS OF THE BAROQUE

by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, March 12, 2017

Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, known as Akamus, played a Weill Hall concert March 12 in a program called "Foreign Affairs -Characters of the Baroque.” The ensemble, that began in 1984, has 15 musicians led by concert master Bernhard Forck. Attired in elegant black with red accents, ranging from ties or shawls to socks and glass frames, the musicians, standing to play, engaged the audience immediately with sonic elegance, musical humor and clarity of purpose.

The opening piece was Telemann’s Overture Suite in B-flat, "Les Nations.” This suite set the stage for the theme of "foreign affairs." After a festive, then dance-like overture and  two minuets played with exquisite sensibility, the music contained character pieces depicting "Turcs, Suisse, Muscovites, Portugais Anciens, Portugais modernes, the lame and the runners."  Musical humor abounded with bold, rough and dramatic leaps for the Turks, then mournful moments alternating with lightness for the Swiss. The Muscovites were introduced with a silly and ominous bassoon bell sound alternating cleverly with cello and bass.

Then Portugal had the musicians smiling as they traded dotted rhythms and sudden accented motifs in the lower strings. Finally, the runners were fleet and the limping ones not. The audience found it all was entertaining and full of jolly sounds in good company.

Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G major, BWV 1049, followed the Telemann.. This beloved piece, with three soloists, violin and two recorders (Anna Fusek and Xenia Loffler) juxtaposed with a larger string ensemble, soared in the Akamus performance and transcended traditional molds. The ensemble was clear and balanced. The musicians breathed and lived the rhythms and musical dialogues. The andante slow movement was heartbreaking in expressive power. Here, suspended  dissonances and chromatic gestures filled the air and were moving and consoling. It is said that Baroque audiences in the Baroque era were moved to tears by the affective power of music and this concert was testimony to that. The presto movement followed "attacca" with dazzling fugal counterpoint, jazz-like riffs and the solo violin bow of Mr. Forck seemingly on fire. Bach's compositional magic swept onward and went into ever-widening realms of imagination and musical discoveries.

A happy crowd returned after intermission for Handel's Suite from Almira, HWV 1, his first opera.. This suite was comprised of instrumental sections written at the age of nineteen. and contains an international group of dances including a set called "The Masque of the Continents.” The playing of the overture had grandeur, as did the wandering of the chaconne and a fast courante with Ms. Fusek’s recorder solo. The sarabande was outstanding for its plaintive and hushed beauty, allowing the lute solo responses between string motifs. A fast and noisy bourree led to a courtly minuet with two oboes, a lively Rigaudon, a Rondeau with busy cello and bass lines, and a Ritornello. Many varieties of instruments were featured.

Vivaldi's Concerto for two oboes in d minor featured Baroque oboists Michael Bosche and Xenia Loffler. There were beautiful interactions between soloists and orchestra. The largo with the two oboes and continuo was highly expressive and the allegro conclusion had exciting fireworks following unison statements. Vivaldi's music is always fresh.

Jean Fery Rebel, French composer in the court of Louis XIV, continued the afternoon's focus on the variety of dance forms of Europe. His suite, "Les Characteres de la Dance,” was performed in a lighthearted and joyous manner. The  fourteen dances were miniature treats linked together in a pastiche, some of the individual dances only eight measures long, with changes of meter and key defining the arrival of each next dance.

Loud applause and calls of bravo brought the orchestra back for a lively encore, “The Attack on the Windmill” from Telemann's seven-part “Don Quixote” Suite.