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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...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Brentano String Quartet / Sunday, September 30, 2018
Mark Steinberg and Serena Canin, violin; Misha Amory, viola; Nina Lee, cello

Brentano String Quartet Accepting Applause Sept. 30 in Weill Hall

THORNY BARTOK AND ELEGANT MENDELSSOHN FOR THE BRENTANO

by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, September 30, 2018

In a minor masterpiece of programming choices the Brentano String Quartet played a Sept. 30 Weill Hall program with an emphasis on refinement, even with a challenging Bartok work in the mix.

Dvorák’s Miniatures for Two Violins and Viola (Op. 75a) opened the concert with charm and gentle loveliness, then folk dance jubilation, profound sadness and finally sighs of lament. The colors were varied and the textures of the three instruments seemed to beguile the attentive audience of 300. The balance and communication of the players was exquisite and powerful in understatement. Czech rhythms appeared in the capriccio, poco allegro and in the romance smooth attacks and deft swelling in short phrases was lovely. Second violin Serena Canin and violist Mischa Amory supported the themes projected by violinist Mark Steinberg in impeccable ensemble with no phrase overplayed and tempos that felt a perfect fit to the music. The performer played standing.

The central work of the program was Bartok’s Second Quartet from 1917, a work inspired by the composer’s travel as an ethnomusicologist in his native Hungary. The first moderato movement opens with the cello leading into dissonant and emotional themes, and the Brentano passed these around, sometimes evoking alienation and at other times shifting from gentle rocking to furious outbursts. There was pain and there was relief. The intensity of this music was sustained which drew from folk traditions, but it’s not folk music in the usual sense, but structural and rhythmic “peasant” music. The second movement (allegro motto capriccioso) was a festival of surging Hungarian dance rhythms. Mr. Steinberg led the wild frenzy which suddenly stops, is tentative, then evolves into a nostalgic waltz, then a gallop with motives from the first movement. The fast and clear passagework in all instruments was riveting and dramatic, especially a thick texture duo from Mr. Amory and cellist Nina Lee.

The third and final lento movement is unusual because traditionally last movements are lively. Here dissonances hover, answered by a sighing cello line and a sense of desolation conveyed by a sad descending violin part. Everywhere the sound had a yearning, looking backward character with wandering unisons, a lovely descending violin phrase from Ms. Canin, and “statements” by both violins that led to “answers” from the cello and viola. Mr. Steinberg’s high register playing had a reference to the Vaughan William’s “Lark Ascending,” and the thorny music an echo of Bartok’s contemporary Pfitzner.

After intermission came Mendelssohn’s Quartet in E flat Major, Opus 44, No. 3, the fifth of his six in the genre.. The allegro vivace is full of excitement, at times restrained, and other times exploding and soaring. Always there are echoes of Beethoven. Repeats were played differently and the knotty first violin part with fistfuls of notes and sixteenth-note passages up high was managed with aplomb by Mr. Steinberg. Clarity here could have been lost wth too much speed, but the Brentano played it admirably with a felicitous tempo. The echt scherzo had proper Mendelssohnian scurrying fantasy and the light attacks in the fugal section breathtaking. The three pizzicato notes at the end were perfectly shaped. The playing in the third movement evoked love in an ever changing form with delicate phrasing, perfect intonation and a planned sense of tentative character. One doesn’t see much inter-musician eye contact with the Brentano, and they are intensely focused on their scores. Key solo playing came from Mr. Amory.

Concluding this quartet and the afternoon’s music the playing of the molto allegro con fuoco soared and and always urged onward, with strong references to the composer’s second cello Sonata, Op. 49 Piano Trio and even the youthful Octet the same key. This is contented and happy music, built carefully in small climaxes. Mr. Steinberg was again the leader here with an agile bow arm, easily conquering the difficulty of playing three sixteenth notes down bow and a single sixteenth note up bow, all the while staying at the same place in the bow and and at a fast pace not making any accents the lone note. The performance had an inevitable quality, gracious and ordered.

Perhaps for some in the hall the playing lacked the big-boned projection of the local hero Parker and Alexander Quartets, but for most the ensemble and elegant musical blend was richly satisfying. A large ovation greeted the exuberant final chord, but there was no encore.

Daniel Greenhouse and Terry McNeill contributed to this review.