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Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now they seem to be on almost ever...
Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the season’s final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church, as the performers...
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.