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Symphony
ZUILL PLAYS ZWILICH WITH SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The Santa Rosa Symphony took a cautious step toward the return of live music in their March 28 virtual concert by sharing the stage with an actual live soloist rather than an apparition. Star cellist Zuill Bailey was still masked, and his back was toward the equally masked and plexiglassed orchestra...
Chamber
ECLECTIC CELLO PIANO VIRTUAL RECITAL FROM TOMKINS ZIVIAN DUO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The venerable 41-year Redwood Arts Council Series in Occidental has joined the virtual recital world with low budget but artistically satisfying programs, mostly using videos filmed in the performer’s residences. March 28 saw the Tanya Tomkins-Eric Zivian duo present an eclectic program from their ...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HITS THE SWEET SPOT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Small orchestras can inhabit a sweet spot between chamber ensembles and full orchestras, but how well they hit that spot depends on the composer's orchestration and the players' ability to project. That dependence was on full display in the Santa Rosa Symphony's Feb. 28 concert, which featured three...
Chamber
NOVEL OBOE-HARPSICHORD RECITAL FROM AIKEN DUO IN UKIAH
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Oboe and harpsichord recitals are a rare North Bay event, even in a pandemic environment where a formal hall setting isn’t available. So it was a delight Feb. 21 to experience on the Ukiah Symphony’s website a recital by Symphony oboist Beth Aiken and harpsichordist husband Tom. The Aiken home vis...
Symphony
A HEALTHY MIX OF TRANSCRIPTIONS AND ORIGINALS FROM THE SR SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Transcriptions and ascending arpeggios were the order of the day on Jan. 24, as the Santa Rosa Symphony performed uplifting works by Bach/Webern, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Marianna Martínes and Mozart. The concert video was made in Weill Hall on Jan. 9. The first transcription was Webern’s 1935 renderi...
Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
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...
CHAMBER REVIEW

Marc-Andre Hamelin (2nd from Left) and the Takács SQ Feb. 25

BEETHOVEN'S MAJESTY IN TAKACS QUARTET CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 25, 2018

Greatness in a single musical composition carried the day Feb. 25 when the Takács String Quartet played Beethoven in Weill Hall.

Sweeping aside two first half pieces, the Takács tackled Beethoven’s penultimate Quartet, the monumental C-Sharp Minor, Op. 131, written in 1826. From the first notes (adagio, and fugue) from violinist Edward Dusinberre it was clear that a magisterial experience would unfold. In six movements, played without break, a set of curiously formed variations supports a theme which seems to finally “congeal.” The Takács played extended soft passages beautifully, spiced by three and five-note outbursts by cellist András Fejér.

Hallmarks of quartet virtuosity were everywhere in the 31-minute piece: clean attacks and releases, naturally shaped phrasing, chaste ensemble, tempos that paired perfectly with the music, pizzicato in three instruments mixed exactly with a lush theme in the first violin. An example of Takác’s mastery of control came at the end of the demanding E Major presto (section five) where in the final chord repeats two were played legato with a diminuendo, and the third dry and almost silent. Masterful.

The lied phrase leading to the victorious allegro finale was profoundly beautiful. The Takács eloquent performance fixed as always Beethoven as the creator.

Weber’s Langsamer Satz quartet movement opened the concert, a luminous nine-minute farewell by the Viennese composer to saturated harmonies before being seduced by his teacher Schönberg’s radical musical aesthetic. The Quartet captured the thick, wistful music with a luxurious ensemble, hothouse romanticism and a warm cello line foundation.

Pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin joined the group for Dohnanyi’s Quintet, Op. 1. There is much to admire in this work with its easy fluency and broad lyricism. Every commentator since the piece’s 1902 debut cites Brahms’ influence, and of course that is true. There is also some Rubinstein and early Busoni in the writing, evident even in the fleet and thick scherzo that was played with a perfectly gauged ending, all in unisons.

Violist Geraldine Walther and Mr. Hamelin played a beautiful duo beginning the adagio, slow and stately and reminiscent of the opening of the Brahms B Major Piano Trio and bits of Schumann. It was playing of a touching love song, with Mr. Fejér’s low register cello line a sweet majesty. Themes here push to be heard among palpable poetry.

The allegro finale had much lively writing for the piano, and Mr. Hamelin played it convincingly. String ensemble was exemplary, but the piano line, at least with legato playing below mezzo forte, was clouded by the now well-known acoustic deficiencies in Weill. Orchestras and solo voice in the Hall are pellucid and sunny, but the addition of a forceful piano part in chamber music is sonically problematical.

An audience of 300 gave the Takács and Mr. Hamelin loud applause. No encore came after the gripping, spiritual Beethoven performance.