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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...
Chamber
TRIO NAVARRO'S POPULAR FARE IN SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 08, 2018
Long time Classical Sonoma readers may recall many Trio Navarro concert reviews that lauded their virtuosity and interest in rarely played repertoire. The April 8 concert in Schroeder Hall before 85 chamber music fans featured sterling performances but had a mostly conservative menu of popular trio...
Recital
KENNER'S ALL POLISH RECITAL HAS PADEREWSKI RARITY
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, April 08, 2018
Kevin Kenner’s April 8 recital at Dominican University’s Angelico Hall had been advertised as all-Chopin, but he added a detour into another seminal Polish composer-pianist, Paderewski. Several of Mr. Kenner’s teachers were Poles, he speaks Polish, and he navigated at the piano both composers’ deman...
Symphony
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE VOICE AT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, April 08, 2018
In an April 8 Santa Rosa Symphony concert filled to the brim with instruments--electric violin, vibraphone, marimba, xylophone, glockenspiel, keyboard samplers, harps, piano and myriad drums, gongs and bells, to say nothing of winds, brass and strings--the instrument that came out on top was the hum...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Mastercard Performance Series / Sunday, February 25, 2018
Takács Quartet. Edward Dusinberre and Károly Schranz, violin; Geraldine Walther, viola; András Fejér, cello. Marc Andre Hamelin, piano

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.