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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

Mutter-Orkis Duo in Weill March 2 (J. McNeill Photo)

ADVENTUROUS BACH AND PENDERECKI IN MUTTER-ORKIS WEILL RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 2, 2018

German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter returned to Weill Hall March 2 in a recital curiously different than her appearance on the same stage several years ago, and also dissimilar to a recent San Francisco concert with a heroic Respighi Sonata performance.

On a rainy night before 700 fans Ms. Mutter and her wonderful decades-long pianist Lambert Orkis chose a program that was inquisitive but also inconclusive. The latter came at the beginning of each half, all Brahms, and began the short Sonatensatz movement from the F.A.E. Sonata of 1853. It received a lively reading but the violinist was not note perfect, but quickly found her stride and the ending trills were crystalline. All through the recital, save for the final work, she played without score. It was a model opening but passed without being persuasive.

Brahms’ A Major Sonata followed intermission, last heard in Sonoma County years ago in a crackling Joseph Edelberg and Corrick Brown performance in Newman Hall. Here it was a small-scaled reading of the bucolic piece from 1886, one of the composer’s most lyrical and beguiling chamber compositions. Although the andante tranquillo second movement, with the well known pizzicato section, was played briskly, but Ms. Mutter was in no rush to get anywhere, and allowed the enchanting themes to unfold naturally. Mr. Orkis’ adjusted his piano sound, often overly reticent, and never covered the violin part. All was sweet and a little underplayed.

If the Brahms works were somewhat “proforma,” the duo’s choice of the Bach D Minor solo Partita (BWV 1004) and Penderecki’s 2nd Sonata were strikingly adventurous. Bach clearly was on fire when he wrote the five-part dance Partita during the Cöthen years, and Ms. Mutter provided a reading that focused on balance and contrasting tempos rather than the incandescence of Gil Shaham in Weill Hall three years ago.

She was most captivating in the quiet sections, and bow control in soft passages was supreme. She deftly built many small climaxes and though her volume was not large, the violin soared when the music demanded it. Trills and double stops were perfection. The gigue was played wonderfully and of course presto, a reminder of similar speed in a long ago Bach gigue (G Minor Sonata) by Hilary Hahn in Wells. Few musical things give me more instant pleasure than a headlong but always-controlled presto violin dash through a Bach gigue.

Ms. Mutter concluded with an extended sonic climax after four short sculpted phrases, and an extra-long fermata. An immediate standing ovation ensued.

It took courage to end the program with the Penderecki, a knotty piece written in 2000 for Ms. Mutter and Mr. Orkis. The violinist has championed contemporary string music, and in her 32-minute journey through the sprawling music (she used the score) seemingly every facet of violin virtuosity was on display: slashing bow strokes, short motives laced by long dissonant phrases, wispy inserted themes and plentiful small changes in articulation. Mr. Orkis used pedal point in many places, sometimes loud and sometimes soft.

In what must have been a North Coast debut, the Sonata alternates mystery with frenzy, and the violinist was up to every challenge, ending with a long piercing phrase in the stratosphere of the e string. A sonic odyssey indeed.

Applause was long and loud, and generated a single encore of Elman's transcription of Schubert’s Ständchen (Serenade), D. 957. Ms. Mutter played it with exemplary bow mastery in the character of the Schubert “landler,” albeit chock full of double and triple stops, Viennese charm and delicate expressive changes in pitch.