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Chamber
UNEXPECTED ARENSKY AND MENDELSSOHN BY THE NAVARRO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
The 100 people entering Schroeder Hall Feb. 17 for a Trio Navarro concert were handed a program that appeared to feature two popular piano trios, Mendelssohn and Arensky. But continuing the Navarro’s tradition of repertoire exploration, the pieces were not the usual first Mendelssohn and first Aren...
Symphony
MENDELSSOHN'S SCOTTISH SAVES THE EVENING IN SRS WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Monday, February 11, 2019
The audience entering Weill Hall for Santa Rosa Symphony concerts Feb. 9-11 were presented with a program that on first glance appeared a curious patchwork – a great symphony mixed with a seldom heard concerto and two disparate overtures, and a guest conductor unknown locally. Monday night’s concer...
Recital
INTRIGUING BELL-HAYWOOD RECITAL BEFORE FULL HOUSE IN WEILL HALL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, February 08, 2019
A big portion of the capacity audience in Weill Hall February 8th came to hear violinist Joshua Bell’s virtuosity, and were treated as well to splendid playing from Sam Haywood, Mr. Bell’s regular pianist since 2010. The duo performed three engaging sonatas, highlighted by Mr. Bell’s sterling techn...
Symphony
TRIPLE PLAY UKIAH SYMPHONY CONCERT AND TCHAIKOVSKY SERENADE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Over the years the Ukiah Symphony’s concerts have been in the Classical Sonoma Calendar sections, but rarely has this Orchestra, now in its 39th season, had a full winter season concert review. The provocative Jan. 27 program in Mendocino College’s Center Theater seemed a good reason to reacquaint ...
Symphony
JACKSON THEATER WELCOMES A NEW RESIDENT ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Moving to a permanent new performance venue can be a perilous undertaking for an orchestra, with different acoustics, the loyal audience finding the new spot and infrastructure challenges of lighting and lobby and backstage operations. In their first concert Jan. 26 in Windsor’s Jackson Theater the...
Symphony
ECLECTIC PASSIONATE PROGRAMMING AT MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 26, 2019
The Marin Symphony’s second Masterworks concert of the 2018-19 season featured works by John Adams, Sibelius and Brahms, a masterful assembly. In a spoken introduction before the program’s first half, conductor Alasdair Neale primed the audience for the “terra incognita” of Adams’ The Chairman Dance...
Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
CHORAL AND VOCAL REVIEW
Mastercard Performance Series / Sunday, December 10, 2017
Philmaronia Baroque Orchestra. Nicholas McGegan, conductor. Yulia Van Doren, soprano; Diana Moore, alto; James Reese, tenor; Philip Cutlip, baritone

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra

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 Oratorio Dec. 10.

Before a Weill Hall audience of 1,000 conductor Nicholas McGegan fashioned an historically accurate and balanced Messiah reading that gave equal weight to the 24-personal chorus, the 31-person orchestra and four sterling soloists: soprano Yulia Van Doren, alto Diana Morre, tenor James Reese and baritone Philip Cutlip.

Part one developed over 51 minutes into a lovely panoply of complimentary sections, beginning with Mr. Reese’s lyrical tenor and six chorus only sections. Highlights of the latter were “For Us a Child is Born,” the “He Shall Feed His Flock Like a Shepherd” duet of Ms. Morre and Ms. Van Doren, and the rich non-vibrato violins. Hanneke van Proosdij played throughout a small electric organ, similar to the one used by the American Bach Soloists, and as a continuo it reinforced the cello and bass (stage left) musical lines.

In fast virtuoso runs Ms. Van Doren sung with clear diction and agility, seemingly enticing Mr. McGegan three times to turn towards her from the podium with an admiring smile. Ms. Morre’s sonority was rich in the low register, and Mr. Cutlip showed a vocal “shake” and an expressive melisma in the section “For Behold, Darkness Shall Cover the Earth.”

After a half hour intermission Part two was much of a lament with the conductor controlling crisp attacks and releases. The music never seemed too fast and Mr. McGegan adroitly made subtle tempo changes throughout the Part. The two Baroque oboes and two bassoons could seldom be heard in the sonic texture, but if omitted something of richness would be lost. Part two is even longer than Part one, and following the concluding Hallelujah Chorus a number of the audience were seen leaving the Hall. In this Chorus the custom of audience standing (as King George II is said to have stood) was observed, but modern scholarship has pointed to the monarch not rising to the music, and possibly he never attended a Messiah performance. Two Baroque trumpeters and a timpanist added their pungent sound to the mix, and this carried over to the concluding Part three.

In the finale Ms. Van Doren’s great aria “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth” had clarion power, and in an odd way reminded me of Purcell’s “Dido’s Lament” sung in Weill a month earlier by Les Artes Florissants, but needing of course greater projection and vocal heft. Kathryn Adduci’s trumpet playing added wonderfully to Mr. Cutlip’s extended and triumphal aria “Behold, I Tell You a Mystery.” Here deceptive cadenzas led to many repeats and a duo of cellist Paul Hale and Mr. Van Proosdij. Equally captivating was Mr. Reese and Ms. Van Doren singing “O Death, Where Is They Sting?”

Mozart must have known the last part of the Messiah, as the great fugue in the fourth movement of his “Jupiter” Symphony reflects the power and ferocity of the last ten minutes of Handel’s soprano aria (“If God Be For Us”) and two choruses. The driving rhythms were expertly managed by Mr. McGegan, bringing a brilliant end to a work that belongs to each holiday season and to the ages.

A standing ovation produced three curtain calls and individual recognition by the conductor of the concertmaster Carla Moore (and ultimately her section) and the trumpets.