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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...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Church of the Incarnation / Friday, October 12, 2018
David Rothe organ; Ayako Nakamura, trumpet and flugelhorn; Carol Menke, soprano; Laura McLellan, cello

Trumpeter Ayako Nakamura

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 Trumpet and Organ” at Santa Rosa’s Church of the Incarnation. Joining them for the finale, Handel’s “Let the Bright Seraphim,” were soprano Carol Menke, Incarnation Music Director, herself a graduate of the Chico State Music Department, and cellist Laura McLellan, who took on the work of an entire string section.

A concert mostly of music for trumpet and organ, no matter how heroic, can weary the ears, and the program was carefully arranged to avoid that. In tackling Telemann’s “Heroic Marches,” for example, the program separated six selections into two offerings, one Marches 4, 5 and 6 (“Tranquility,” “Armament” and “Love”) midway through the first half of the concert; and the other, Marches 1, 2, and 12 (“Majesty,” “Grace” and “Joy”) near the end of the second. In between there were excursions into solo pieces for organ (Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in C Minor and Buxtehude’s Praeludium in G Minor), and Arutiunian’s Elegy from 2000, played on flugelhorn.

In a similar spirit, the concert opened with Martini’s Sonata in D Major, immediately followed by Hovhaness’ equally familiar but more contemporary and often darkly haunting Prayer of Saint Gregory, composed in 1946.

The performers, especially Prof. Rothe, offered helpful and insightful comments on the composers, the structure of the music and its history, including the differences between French and German instrumental reeds and, more tellingly, the contrast between the solo organ selection from Buxtehude’s later years and the far more youthful and less troubled offering from his admirer and occasional student, Bach.

Throughout the interaction between the trumpeter and organist was smooth and professional, not surprising since the duo has presented the same concert, with only minor variations, several times in and around Chico since the beginning of the summer. As with most live performances, some runs on the trumpet were less than fully realized and got partially lost in the large space of the church. But I will always trade the risks of a live performance for a digitally perfect recording of the same pieces, especially when the performance takes place in a lovely and sonically rewarding venue like the Incarnation, with its arching old-growth redwood rafters and delicately carved wood fixtures.

One or two quibbles: first, I would have preferred to hear the final notes of the trumpet passages in the baroque pieces held out full value, with more vibrato. As it was, they were too often played staccato or marcato, with a corresponding loss of resonance, beauty and passion. That flaw vanished during the Handel, when the call and responses passages with Ms. Menke’s vocal lines provided Ms. Nakamura a more reliable model to follow.

The performance could have benefited by a bit more passion in the trumpet and organ pieces overall. Baroque music is the work of the Enlightenment, the period that brought us Kantian logic, essayistic poems in heroic couplets, and the rise of the middle class. But for that very reason this music needs more fire and fervor in the interpretation than related music, not less. At times the playing seemed workmanlike and technically precise but lacking in the ecclesiastical impulse that provided the occasion for the pieces’ composition.

Finally, there was a need of amplification for the voice and cello in the final work. Both tended to be overpowered by the organ and trumpet. Handel’s Let the Bright Seraphim is a wonderful piece of music, particularly as a finale for the concert, but much of its power depends on the equal aural presence of all the parts.