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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...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Mastercard Performance Series / Saturday, October 28, 2017
Miró Quartet (Daniel Ching and William Fedkenheuer, violin; John Largess, viola; Joshua Gindele, cello); Jeffrey Kahane, piano

Miró Quarter and Jeffrey Kahane Oct. 28 (N. Bell Photo)

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 Academy of St. Martin’s in the Fields, Peter Serkin, and several others have been cancelled at the GMC’s two halls: Weill (1,400 seats) and Schroeder (250 seats).

The silence for classical music lovers came to an end on Oct. 28 with a memorable concert in Weill Hall by the Miró Quartet and pianist Jeffrey Kahane, the former conductor of the Santa Rosa Symphony. Kahane has maintained strong ties to Sonoma County, and he proved an ideal performer to help coax fire-weary local residents back into the GMC.

Chamber music concerts in Weill Hall are usually restricted to the ground floor, which is often only half full. For the Miró/Kahane concert, however, almost every one of the 750 available seats was taken. In pre-concert remarks, the GMC’s new executive director, Jacob Yarrow, gave much of the credit to Kahane, who had suggested opening the show to everyone, asking them to “come as they are and pay what they can.” (The box office later confirmed that about one-third of the tickets were complimentary.)

The concert began with five selections from Dvorak’s rarely heard Cypresses for string quartet. The source of the rarity is evident from the piece’s content: 12 “songs without words” adapted from a song cycle written early in Dvorak’s career. Without the overarching narrative supplied by the lyrics, the songs in the instrumental version seem disconnected.

The Miró tried to solve this problem by reading the original lyrics before performing each song. Their solution was only partially successful, however, because they are not trained actors, and their unamplified voices didn’t project well in the large hall. They would have done better to work with a professional actor who could have read the lyrics with drama and volume.

On the other hand, the music was gorgeous. The transparent textures of the songs, coupled with the players’ exquisite sensitivity, allowed the sublime melodies to shine forth with the accompaniment well in the background. All the instruments shared in the melodic line, either in solos or duets. The third song, “When thy sweet glances fall on me,” was exceptionally beautiful, with a languid and ethereal melody that perfectly matched the lovelorn text.

When Kahane entered the stage to perform the Brahms piano quintet, the concert quickly moved from the travails of love to the triumph of the human spirit. Few pieces in the repertoire encompass as much territory as this remarkable quintet, which moves with ease from utmost serenity to unbridled frenzy.

Kahane sat behind the quartet, with the lid of his piano fully open. Because the floor of Weill Hall is only gently raked, he disappeared from view for much of the audience, but he was ubiquitous nonetheless. He interacted with the string players as if he were one of them, never drowning them out or stepping on their lines. The balance among all five players was a model of equanimity.

The ensemble adeptly traded lines and motives, with the prominence shifting repeatedly among the instruments. Everyone seemed fully aware of what their colleagues were playing, especially Kahane, who shifted constantly from foreground to background.

Beyond control of dynamics, the string players achieved remarkable unanimity of sound, playing as one down to the pressure and strokes of their bows. In their and Kahane’s hands, the Brahms became an ever-surprising journey into the deepest possibilities of musical thought. Nothing was predictable, yet everything the performance slowly uncovered seemed inevitable.

During the intermission, the audience exchanged fire stories and detailed their losses, but the mood was upbeat. The second half elevated the mood even more with a sparkling performance of Dvorak’s second piano quintet, a masterpiece on equal footing with the Brahms. In some ways, the Dvorak is the more transcendent of the two, carrying the listener into a realm of boundless joy and festivity.

Dvorak was a violist, and that middle instrument shines brightly throughout the quintet, nowhere more so than in the second movement, a stately dumka (folk ballad). Violist John Largess made the most of his solo opportunities, playing with a deep, rich tone that at times out-deepened the cellist, Joshua Gindele, who often played on his instrument’s upper strings. In contrast, Largess played entire phrases on his lowest string, shifting effortlessly and imperceptibly along its length.

All five musicians played the subsequent furiant (frenzied dance) movement with tremendous energy and agility, careening forward without pause into the final Allegro, an irresistible rondo. Despite the breathtaking speed, nothing was unruly, and all the lines were crystalline, with each player clearly evident. The rock-solid chorale near the end brought the music down to earth for a brief moment before the exhilarating closing bars. The ovation was immediate and sustained.

After being called back on stage a third time, the ensemble performed the last movement of Schumann’s piano quintet, considered the originator of the genre. Unfortunately, the performance was not quite up to the Brahms or Dvorak, perhaps because the movement was taken out of context or insufficiently rehearsed. The blend was muddy at times, and the arch of the narrative was often lost. But the performance was stirring nonetheless, yet more evidence that the GMC is back in full swing.

Reprinted by permission from San Francisco Classical Voice.