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ZUILL PLAYS ZWILICH WITH SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The Santa Rosa Symphony took a cautious step toward the return of live music in their March 28 virtual concert by sharing the stage with an actual live soloist rather than an apparition. Star cellist Zuill Bailey was still masked, and his back was toward the equally masked and plexiglassed orchestra...
Chamber
ECLECTIC CELLO PIANO VIRTUAL RECITAL FROM TOMKINS ZIVIAN DUO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The venerable 41-year Redwood Arts Council Series in Occidental has joined the virtual recital world with low budget but artistically satisfying programs, mostly using videos filmed in the performer’s residences. March 28 saw the Tanya Tomkins-Eric Zivian duo present an eclectic program from their ...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HITS THE SWEET SPOT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Small orchestras can inhabit a sweet spot between chamber ensembles and full orchestras, but how well they hit that spot depends on the composer's orchestration and the players' ability to project. That dependence was on full display in the Santa Rosa Symphony's Feb. 28 concert, which featured three...
Chamber
NOVEL OBOE-HARPSICHORD RECITAL FROM AIKEN DUO IN UKIAH
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Oboe and harpsichord recitals are a rare North Bay event, even in a pandemic environment where a formal hall setting isn’t available. So it was a delight Feb. 21 to experience on the Ukiah Symphony’s website a recital by Symphony oboist Beth Aiken and harpsichordist husband Tom. The Aiken home vis...
Symphony
A HEALTHY MIX OF TRANSCRIPTIONS AND ORIGINALS FROM THE SR SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Transcriptions and ascending arpeggios were the order of the day on Jan. 24, as the Santa Rosa Symphony performed uplifting works by Bach/Webern, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Marianna Martínes and Mozart. The concert video was made in Weill Hall on Jan. 9. The first transcription was Webern’s 1935 renderi...
Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
RECITAL REVIEW
Green Music Center / Sunday, May 14, 2017
Benjamin Bellman, violin; Orion Weiss, piano

Benjamin Beilman and Orion Weiss May 14 in Schroeder Hall

DEMANDING VIOLIN SONATAS CONQUERED BY BEILMAN-WEISS DUO IN SCHROEDER

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, May 14, 2017

Violinist Benjamin Beilman’s ravishing Mozart performance at last summer’s Weill Hall ChamberFest finale lured an enthusiastic crowd to Schroeder Hall May 14 to hear if his secure virtuosity was up to a program of demanding sonatas. He did not disappoint.

With the powerful pianist Orion Weiss in the mix the Janácek and Bartok No. 2 Sonatas were the core of a demanding afternoon, with the former perhaps the most memorable. Written in 1922 with echoes of the composer’s two string quartets, the four-movement piece reflects anxiety and fear from the period, and Mr. Beilman made the most of the often-confusing changes in rhythm and mood. He was a master of soft phrase endings, sometimes with whispering codicils. The raucous contrasts in the opening con moto turned into bucolic lyricism in the ballada, a movement heard February in Christian Tetzlaff’s fine Weill recital.

In the third movement allegretto Mr. Beilman’s interpretation became snarling and pushy, and Mr. Weiss’s playing was insistent and propulsive. The playing in the adagio finale was more of the same, Mr. Beilman’s slashing and thrusting phrases having the required hard-edged tone, juxtaposed with a plaintive theme in both the piano and violin lines. The diminuendo at the conclusion was beautifully played. It was high-level virtuosity from the duo.

Following intermission Bartok’s tumultuous work was heard, and even for the prepared listener it can be a difficult task to embrace. Don’t look for long melodic lines in the two movements, as the Hungarian master was interested in unique instrumental effects in a rustic fabric of sound. This is complex music with concentrated fantasy and is mostly atonal, with many slides, portamento, melodic pizzicato and numerous short sections. The violinist and pianist met every challenge including menacing toccata-like playing in the final allegretto where Mr. Beilman seemed to often alter his usual razor-sharp pitch for calculated effects. His high register pianissimo was captivating, and it ended the thrilling but confounding work composed in the same year as the Janácek.

The recital opened with chaste and balanced interpretation of Mozart’s B-Flat Major Sonata, K. 378. Both musicians were in no rush and the tempos seemed just right, and the tentative opening violin phrase moved to a subtle crescendo. Clearly Mr. Beilman can make changes and swells in volume sound easily natural. Nothing was forced and each thematic line was distinct and perfectly “Mozartian.”

Schubert’s 11-minute B Minor Rondo, a favorite of violinists, sounded pretty tame after the Bartok, with alternating jolly and peasant sections ending in several deceptive cadences. It’s Schubert in a husky mood and the duo’s virtuosity plumbed every nuance in the piece.

An ovation recalled the duo to the stage for a one encore, Kreisler’s chestnut Liebeslied (Love’s Sorrows). It was perfectly played but perhaps without the last ounce of Viennese whipped cream that the composer’s recordings capture.