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Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s Sonoma Overt...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
Chamber
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, perfor...
Symphony
AMERICAN CLASSICS SPARKLE UNDER KAHANE’S BATON
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Jeffrey Kahane, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s former conductor, returned to the Weill Hall podium on Saturday night, and the results were expectedly wonderful. The concert of American classics was by turns playful (Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”), emotional (Barber’s violin concerto) and triumphant (...
Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
RECITAL REVIEW
Green Music Center / Saturday, March 30, 2019
Anne Akiko Meyers, violin; Jason Vieaux, guitar

J. Vieaux and A. A. Meyers Backstage in Weill (Green Music Center Photo)

SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT

by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019

Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies together, they shared exquisite music to an appreciative audience of 900.

One pleasure of hearing two master musicians is that there are seemingly few barriers to what they can do. The musical world is their sonic oyster. Ms. Meyers often commissions contemporary composers and premieres arrangements and new works, and arranges some herself. Mr. Vieaux performs worldwide with diverse ensembles and seems up for anything.

Corelli’s Sonata in D Minor, Op. 5, No. 12, arranged for violin and guitar by Andy Poxon, opened the program with a flourish. Subtitled “La Folia,” it grandly states its theme, and then unravels variations delightful in their inventiveness. Ms. Meyers explored Corelli’s stylistic innovations for the violin with a universe of bowing effects. Mr. Vieaux strummed and plucked and arpeggiated chords through the wide range of sound of which the classical guitar is capable. It was a rousing opener with a distinctly Spanish flair.

Glass’ Metamorphosis II, from his five-movement piano suite composed in the late 1980s, followed. It was arranged for violin and guitar by Michael Riesman, Music Director of the Philip Glass Ensemble, and it is stunning. The guitar’s minimalist, repetitive, broken thirds were a haunting ostinato for the violin’s simple yet rich rising and falling melody, leading into rapid and delicate arpeggios, like rapidly beating wings, and was soon answered by Mr. Vieaux’s own finger-flying arpeggios. All the playing circled back to the beginning ruminations before a poignant ending.

Piazzolla’s “Histoire du Tango,” a four-movement suite from 1986, brought the spirit of the cafés and bordellos of Argentina into Weil Hall. Mr. Vieaux was clearly on home ground, dispensing with scores for the rest of the program. He has performed this work with the traditional Argentine bandoneón instrument, and it was the bandoneón’s special sound that Ms. Meyers evoked in her playing – bold sensuality and rawness, manifested through the versatility of her bow. Resonance and soul and irresistible rhythms flowed from the duo in this work. Each section takes on a different era: “Bordello, circa 1900,” brings a turn-of-the-century spirit of nightlife of Buenos Aires. “Night Club, 1960” presents the “new tango,” full of longing and fulfillment, danced in clubs. “Modern-Day Concert” intertwines tango with American jazz and the music of Eastern European composers such as Bartok and Stravinsky, whose influence was felt in Europe when Piazzolla lived in Paris. There is always a knife-edge to the tango, and the duo’s interpretation brought out that dark element as well as unfettered joy.

Following intermission, Ms. Meyers alone played her arrangement for solo violin of Kojo No Tsuki (The Moon Over the Ruined Castle), by Rentaro Taki. A simple Japanese folk tune in the pentatonic scale morphs into an exploration of sound. Meant to evoke a ruined Japanese medieval castle in the moonlight, it suggests the turbulence of life through times of war when it was alive with intrigue. A composer and pianist during the Meiji period, Taki traveled to Leipzig to further his musical studies, falling ill after a year and returning to Japan, where he died, possibly from tuberculosis, at 23. It was a lovely and intriguing piece played with great sensitivity.

Mr. Vieaux then took the stage for a solo, Antonio Carlos Jobim’s bossa nova tune “A Felicidade,” which was the main theme of the film “Black Orpheus.” He introduced the piece by calling Jobin “perhaps the greatest popular songwriter of the 20th century.” His performance fully communicated the excitement and intensity of Carnival in Brazil.

The duo reunited for a John Corigliano “Lullaby for Natalie,” which Ms. Meyers told the audience was close to her heart; she had commissioned the work when she was pregnant with her first daughter, Natalie, now eight. Natalie was in the audience, and eyes turned to the orchestra section when the girl rose from the seats she shared with her father and younger sister. Her mother continued that the piece is Natalie’s preferred lullaby (her sister’s favorite is “Spiegel im Spiegel” by Arvo Pärt). “You’re welcome to go to sleep, honey,” Ms. Meyers concluded, smiling. The Corigliano furnished another instance among many this evening when the two instruments and two performers were especially well-suited, each sustaining a personality and voice, each discernible while blending transparently.

The artists concluded the program with five of De Falla’s “Siete Canciones Populares Española” (1914). This dazzling work has been arranged for all manner of ensembles. Dashing through moods, swelling and growing, it is heartrending music with a constant, compelling pulse. After its final notes, the audience gave the artists a standing ovation. As an encore, Ms. Meyers, admitting she “loves Elvis Presley,” joined Mr. Vieaux in playing a song Presley made popular, “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You,” by Hugo Peretti, Luigi Creatore and George David Weiss. The performers gave it a Scottish-Irish lilt, and the richly diverse evening ended on a sentimental note.