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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...
BEETHOVEN'S VALENTINE'S DAY GIFT IN RAC SEBASTOPOL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, February 14, 2020
Continuing a season of Redwood Arts Council successes, the Kouzov Duo performed an eclectic Valentine’s Day concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church before an audience of 125. Beethoven’s charming Op. 66 Variations on Mozart’s “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from the opera the Magic Flute was a bouncy ...
LUSH BACH PERFORMANCE IN DENK'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 13, 2020
Memorable artistic interpretations of musical masterpieces are often at extremes, and with the Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (WTC - Book I) that Jeremy Denk played in Weill Hall Feb. 13, the pianist was only sporadically at unique or ebullient musical ends. But his playing wasn’t exactly at opposite...
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.