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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...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
BEETHOVEN'S VALENTINE'S DAY GIFT IN RAC SEBASTOPOL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, February 14, 2020
Continuing a season of Redwood Arts Council successes, the Kouzov Duo performed an eclectic Valentine’s Day concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church before an audience of 125. Beethoven’s charming Op. 66 Variations on Mozart’s “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from the opera the Magic Flute was a bouncy ...
LUSH BACH PERFORMANCE IN DENK'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 13, 2020
Memorable artistic interpretations of musical masterpieces are often at extremes, and with the Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (WTC - Book I) that Jeremy Denk played in Weill Hall Feb. 13, the pianist was only sporadically at unique or ebullient musical ends. But his playing wasn’t exactly at opposite...
SYMPHONY REVIEW

E. Casanova, C. Steinbuck and E. MacDougall Jan. 27

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 readers with developments for Mendocino County’s premiere ensemble.

Developments have been good. Now in his 29th season, conductor Les Pfützenreuter led a unique pairing of two three-piano concertos, with Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings occupying the concert’s first half. USO string sound is always iffy as small numbers of musicians (today 8 violins, 3 violas, 4 cellos and 2 basses) produce less than sonorous volume. Additionally intonation problems appear in fast ascending passages in the upper strings, and cutoffs were more crisp than attacks.

That said, Mr. Pfützenreuter had deft control of dynamics with subtle piano and pianissimo differences in the second movement waltz, coupled with steady rhythms and interpretatively little rubato. Viola playing had particular beauty with other string playing winding around them, and thematic restatements in the famous richly colored élégie were elegantly shaped by the conductor. If the initial and second themes in the élégie don’t tug at your heart strings, Tchaikovsky’s music probably isn’t for you.

Tempo in the finale was judicious and overall string sound lack depth, but Mr. Pfützenreuter’s ability to draw sounds swelling from pianissimo to mezzo forte was estimable. The Theater’s acoustics, warm but with negligible reverberation, underscored this captivating and passionate music.

Following intermission Bach’s D Minor Concerto (BWV 1063) for three keyboards was heard, followed by Mozart’s F Major “Triple” Piano Concerto, K. 242, were heard. The common instrument placement of parallel piano “noses” facing directly into the orchestra was dropped in favor of the flügel a flügel arrangement, with pianists Carolyn Steinbuck and Elena Casanova facing pianist Elizabeth MacDougall across instruments with their lids removed.

Each of the soloists has a long Mendocino County performance history and concerts with Mr. Pfützenreuter, so it was no surprise that the Bach from 1733 unfolded with graceful musical counterpoint. Pacing is critical in this work and the conductor kept a steady tempo that allowed the themes, from the primo (Ms. Steinbuck) and secondo (Ms. Casanova) parts, to emerge from what in lesser hands could have been cloudy sound. Playing in the siciliana was lovely and the fugal parts of the concluding allegro had a joyous character.

As good as the Bach work is, and it is very good, the Mozart has more heft and structural interest. The pianists did not rotate instrument positions, and after so much string music it was good to have additional instruments in the mix, especially the horns (though they were way to loud the entire piece). Ensemble was mostly good with a few spots that were rushed and out of sync, something the conductor has no way of fixing during a performance. Ms. Steinbuck played the short cadenza in the opening allegro. Oddly for a work with three solo pianos the most effective thematic statements belonged in the orchestra, and Mr. Pfützenreuter’s control was intensive, though accomplished with less forceful body movements than one sees with most other conductors. In the adagio some of the afternoon’s best playing was heard, the captivating dolce theme came from Ms. Steinbuck, with just the right tinge of sadness. The sonic pianistic interplay in this movement and the technically assured concluding rondo was a highlight, three “singers” at the service of beguiling music.

A standing ovation greeted the conclusion of the concerto, and the conductor spoke of his devotion to Mozart, and that the composer’s 263rd birthday was falling on the day of this concert.

Orchestra officials subsequently informed the packed hall that the May 18 and 19 concerts would be the final ones for the conductor, and a search had begun for a new music director. Mr. Pfützenreuter retired last year as Professor of Music at the College, and announced that he now has time to reacquaint himself with French horn technique.