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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 ...
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.