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Chamber
HEROIC TRUMPET AND ORGAN MUSIC AT INCARNATION
by Jerry Dibble
Friday, October 12, 2018
The strong connections between Santa Rosa’s musical community and California State University Chico were on display Oct. 12 as David Rothe, Professor Emeritus in the Chico Music Department, and Ayako Nakamura, trumpet with the North State Symphony, presented a concert titled “Heroic Music for Trumpe...
Symphony
LECCE-CHONG PROVES HIS METTLE WITH SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 07, 2018
Francesco Lecce-Chong was handed two warhorses for his debut as conductor of the Santa Rosa Symphony, and he rode them both to thrilling victory. For the first win, Brahms’ violin concerto, he owed much to soloist Arnaud Sussman, but for the other triumph, Beethoven’s fifth symphony, he and his musi...
Chamber
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,...
Chamber
ECHO'S RICH MUSICAL TAPESTRY IN MARIN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, September 30, 2018
Marin’s Echo Chamber Orchestra unfurled a glorious tapestry of Mozart, Weber and Respighi music Sept. 30 in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church. The church, located on the grounds of San Francisco Theological Seminary, boasts a ceiling high enough for angels to fly, and its quiet setting and aco...
Recital
IDIOMATIC SCHUMANN AND BEETHOVEN HIGHTLIGHT WALKER'S CONCERTS GRAND RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 23, 2018
Mostly known as a concert producer and indefatigable promoter of Sonoma County music, pianist Judy Walker stepped into the soloist’s role Sept. 23 in a sold out recital for the Concerts Grand House recitals series. Two Scarlatti Sonatas, in D Minor (K. 213) and D Major (K. 29), began the hour-long ...
Symphony
SAKAKEENY'S LION AND ROSE HIGHLIGHTS SO CO PHIL'S 20TH SEASON OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 22, 2018
Fresh from a triumphant tour in Latin America the Sonoma County Philharmonic opened its 20th season Sept. 22 in a celebratory concert in the Santa Rosa High School Auditorium. Keeping to the evening’s orchestra history and past performance, conductor emeritus Gabriel Sakakeeny, who led the So Co Ph...
Recital
DEDIK'S POTENT BEETHOVEN AND CHOPIN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Monday, September 17, 2018
Anastasia Dedik returned Sept. 17 to the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series in a recital that featured three familiar virtuoso works in potent interpretations. Chopin’s G Minor Ballade hasn’t been heard in Sonoma County public concerts since a long-ago Earl Wild performance, and Beethoven’s...
Recital
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 unan...
Chamber
CELLO-PIANO DUO IN HUSKY SPRING LAKE VILLAGE PROGRAM
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, September 05, 2018
Two thirds of the way through a stimulating 22-concert season the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series Sept. 5 presented two splendid cello sonatas before 110 people in the Village’s Montgomery auditorium. A duo for more than a decade, East Bay musicians cellist Monica Scott and pianist Hadle...
Chamber
EXTRAVAGANT FUSION OF STYLES AT CHRIS BOTTI BAND WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Jerry Dibble
Sunday, August 12, 2018
Trumpeter Chris Botti still performs in jazz venues including SF Jazz and The Blue Note, but now appears mostly in cavernous halls or on outdoor stages like the Sonoma State University’s Green Music Center. He brought his unique road show to the packed Weill Hall August 12 in a concert of effusive e...
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.