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Symphony
CONDUCTOR PLAYOFFS BEGIN IN SANTA ROSA
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 08, 2017
The Santa Rosa Symphony is calling 2017-18 “a choice season” because the next few months offer the audience and the symphony’s board of directors a chance to choose a new conductor from a pool of five candidates. Each candidate will lead a three-concert weekend set this fall and winter, with a final...
Symphony
DVORAK AND TCHAIKOVSKY ORCHESTRAL COLOR AT SO CO PHIL SEASON OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 30, 2017
A concert with curious repertoire and splashy orchestral color launched the 19th season of the Sonoma County Philharmonic Sept. 30 in Santa Rosa High School’s Auditorium. Why curious? Conductor Norman Gamboa paired the ever-popular Dvorak and his rarely heard 1891 trilogy In Nature’s Realm, with t...
Recital
ELEGANT PIANISM IN WATER MUSIC CHARMS HOUSE RECITAL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 03, 2017
A standard component of house concerts often involve listeners hearing the music but also smelling the lasagna and seeing the champagne in the adjacent kitchen. But it was not the case Sept. 3 at Sandra Shen’s Concerts Grand House Recital performance, as her riveting piano playing enthralled the sm...
Chamber
YOUNG MUSICIANS SHINE AT PIANO SONOMA CONCERT
by Lee Ormasa
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
The third in a series of four concerts by Piano Sonoma artists in residence, part of the Vino and Vibrato Series, was held August 1 in Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center. Entitled “The Masters,” the program included works by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. Piano Sonoma is a summer artist-in...
Chamber
THRILLING PROGRAM CLOSES VOM CHAMBER FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, July 30, 2017
The finale of the two-week Valley of the Moon Music Festival closed July 30 with “The Age of Bravura” concert at the Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. The musical selections held to this year’s Festival theme “Schumann’s World - His Music and the Music He Loved.“ This summer Festival features chamber mus...
Chamber
PERIOD INSTRUMENTAL SOUND AT PENULTIMATE VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 30, 2017
In the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival’s penultimate concert July 30 the perennial issue of period and modern instruments was apparent. But only in the concluding Mendelssohn Trio, as the performances in the two first half works easily avoided instrumental comparisons. Clara Schumann’s t...
Chamber
ECLECTIC REPERTOIRE IN FETCHING VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 22, 2017
One of the purposes of summer music festivals is to present unfamiliar music in an attractive and often small audience setting. The Valley of the Moon Music Festival delightfully met these requirements July 22 and 23 with two concerts in the small hall at Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. Classical Sono...
Recital
ADAMS' PHRYGIAN GATES HIGHLIGHTS MORKOSKI FESTIVAL PERFORMANCE
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Attendees at the Molly Morkoski Mendocino Music Festival recital July 22 were in for a treat, both pianistically and if they happened to buy a tasty cookie during intermission. The program included Beethoven’s Op. 27 Moonlight Sonata, Adams’ Phrygian Gates, a surprise add-on of Grieg’s Holberg Suit...
Symphony
SOARING VERDI REQUIEM CLOSES 31ST MENDOCINO FESTIVAL
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
We speak frequently about how there is nothing like the experience of a live performance. Seldom was this truer than at the July 22 closing performance of the two-week Mendocino Music Festival. The Festival Orchestra, conducted by of Allan Pollack, joined with the Festival Chorus in a moving renderi...
Recital
ORGAN REGISTRATION MASTERY HEARD IN WALHAIN'S RECITAL
by Robert Young
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
A group of 65 lucky attendees July 18 had the pleasure of hearing Etienne Walhain’s recital at the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa. Mr. Walhain is organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Tournai, Belgium, and played to a varied program Bach, Franck, and Reger. He used the tonal resource...
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.