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Symphony
MENDELSSOHN'S SCOTTISH SAVES THE EVENING IN SRS WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Monday, February 11, 2019
The audience entering Weill Hall for Santa Rosa Symphony concerts Feb. 9-11 were presented with a program that on first glance appeared a curious patchwork – a great symphony mixed with a seldom heard concerto and two disparate overtures, and a guest conductor unknown locally. Monday night’s concer...
Recital
INTRIGUING BELL-HAYWOOD RECITAL BEFORE FULL HOUSE IN WEILL HALL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, February 08, 2019
A big portion of the capacity audience in Weill Hall February 8th came to hear violinist Joshua Bell’s virtuosity, and were treated as well to splendid playing from Sam Haywood, Mr. Bell’s regular pianist since 2010. The duo performed three engaging sonatas, highlighted by Mr. Bell’s sterling techn...
Symphony
TRIPLE PLAY UKIAH SYMPHONY CONCERT AND TCHAIKOVSKY SERENADE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Over the years the Ukiah Symphony’s concerts have been in the Classical Sonoma Calendar sections, but rarely has this Orchestra, now in its 39th season, had a full winter season concert review. The provocative Jan. 27 program in Mendocino College’s Center Theater seemed a good reason to reacquaint ...
Symphony
JACKSON THEATER WELCOMES A NEW RESIDENT ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Moving to a permanent new performance venue can be a perilous undertaking for an orchestra, with different acoustics, the loyal audience finding the new spot and infrastructure challenges of lighting and lobby and backstage operations. In their first concert Jan. 26 in Windsor’s Jackson Theater the...
Symphony
ECLECTIC PASSIONATE PROGRAMMING AT MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 26, 2019
The Marin Symphony’s second Masterworks concert of the 2018-19 season featured works by John Adams, Sibelius and Brahms, a masterful assembly. In a spoken introduction before the program’s first half, conductor Alasdair Neale primed the audience for the “terra incognita” of Adams’ The Chairman Dance...
Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
RECITAL REVIEW
Redwood Arts Council / Sunday, September 09, 2018
Sonja Myklebust, cello; Abbie Gabrielson, piano

A. Gabrielson and S. Myklebust Acknowledge Applause Sept. 9 in Occidental (J. McNeill photo)

DUO WEST OPENS OCCIDENTAL CONCERT SEASON

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 09, 2018

Before a full house at the Occidental Performing Arts Center Sept. 9 the cello-piano Duo West, playing from score throughout, presented a recital that on paper looked stimulating and thoughtful.

Beginning with MacDowell’s To A Wild Rose (from Woodland Sketches, Op. 51), the transcription by an unannounced arranger made little impact and probably was something novel to most of the audience. An odd choice not explained, but the Fauré D Minor Sonata (Op. 109) that followed was explained by the artists wielding two microphones with an extended interplay of commentary. The audience seemed to enjoy the descriptions of simplistic ideas of contrast in musical composition.

A work from late in the composer’s life, the Sonata’s charms and harmonies are complex and elusive, and cellist Sonja Myklebust’s round sound was well placed for the uneven phrases and unique rhythms. Pianist Abbie Gabrielson had good ensemble with Mr. Myklebust but her playing lacked individuality, and wasn’t helped by the hall’s sub-professional instrument with its wooden sonority and subdued treble.

The Sonata’s best playing was in the lovely andante’s long line and wandering melodies. Bow control here was good and the playing had rich tone in the many modulations. In the finale the duo chose a tempo that was too slow for bringing out the urgency of the music, especially at the end where the momentum in the cello part builds to a joyful climax. The composer’ sobriquet is “Old Arpeggio,” and Ms. Gabrielson added a few inner voices to the delightful swirl of arpeggiated chords.

Before intermission Arvo Pärt’s ten-minute Spiegel im Spiegel was an audience favorite, with Ms. Myklebust’s vibrato widening and the long minimalist exposed line captivating. Cello intonation was very good and the vital clarity of the long-held note changes was excellent. Mild dissonances in the piano part added to the piece’s mystery, with just one blurred cello entry point note and a fetching swelling of vibrato at the concluding fermata. The ovation was long and loud.

Shostakovich’s popular 2nd Sonata, Op.40, came after intermission, and echoed a performance four days earlier at Santa Rosa’s Spring Lake Village Concert Series. In both performances the tempos were on the slow side, diluting the momentum and often sarcasm of the composer. But there is rhapsody in this music, and none of the banality of the cello’s theme in the First Cello Concerto. But Shostakovich does wonders with banal themes, and Ms. Myklebust projected themes alluringly with fine control in pianissimo passages. Pitch was sporadically off when coming down from a high-register quiet notes. There were references here to the composer’s Fourth Symphony, something I had not heard a cellist do before in the D Minor Sonata.

The exciting scherzo was played with an appropriate harshness and again a judicious tempo, leading into the long phrases of the largo. The Duo West gave it a gripping reading, underscoring the dissonances and strange transitions. Sadness trumped melancholy. A program highlight

The finale’s dramatic juxtaposition with the largo followed, with a much lighter instrumental texture, acerbic tunes and a cascade of piano notes.

Ginastera’s Pampeana (Op. 21, No. 2) closed the concert, a bravura work reminiscent of the composer’s Danzes Argentinas. The playing had the right amount of frantic rhythms and heavy textures, but also some leavening fantasy. Repeated phrases and raucous sforzandos from Ms. Gabrielson were telling additions to Ms. Myklebust’s double stops and admirable virtuosity.