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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...
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.