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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...
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...
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.