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Chamber
BEETHOVEN FEATURED IN SF TRIO'S OCCIDENTAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 19, 2020
Conventional repertoire in uncommonly good performances highlighted the San Francisco Piano Trio’s Jan. 19 concert in the Occidental Center for the Arts. Haydn’s No. 44 Trio (Hob. XV:28) came from late in his long career, when he was in and out of London, and received a sparkling reading that featu...
SIMONE PORTER ASPIRES TO STARDOM WITH SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 12, 2020
The Sibelius violin concerto is one of several mountains that violin soloists need to ascend before they can lay claim to stardom. Hundreds make the attempt every year, but only a few reach the top. Simone Porter, who played the concerto with the Santa Rosa Symphony on Sunday afternoon, got close bu...
Choral and Vocal
ORPHEUS OF AMSTERDAM'S MUSIC IN SCHROEDER ORGAN CHORAL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, January 10, 2020
“All over the map.” Sonoma Bach, directed by Bob Worth, has taken its audiences this season on journeys through many centuries and many lands. The programming is fresh and intriguing and the performers varied and creators of beauty and interest. The January 10 program was centered on organ works by...
Choral and Vocal
OLD NORTH GERMAN CAROLS IN SONOMA BACH'S SCHROEDER CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, December 15, 2019
“Cast off all sorrows…also dance in heavenly fashion.” A volume called Piae Cantiones was printed in 1582 in North Germany, lively songs going back to the 14th century, and this treasure trove provided material for numerous composers to arrange Christmas carols over following generations, from simp...
Symphony
EVERLASTING LIGHT AT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Monday, December 09, 2019
The Mozart Requiem includes four intermittent vocal soloists, but the real star is the choir, which is featured in almost every movement. That stardom shone bright at the Santa Rosa Symphony’s memorable Requiem performance on Monday night. The soloists were good, but the choir was superb. Located wi...
Symphony
UNFINISHED AND FINNISH
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 08, 2019
Having a new resident conductor on the podium for the Ukiah Symphony was an attractive invitation for a long-delayed visit to Mendocino College’s Center Theater Dec. 8. The insouciant Les Pfutzenreuter recently retired after decades of conducting the ensemble, replaced by Phillip Lenberg who also j...
Choral and Vocal
PRAERTORIUS IN RENAISSANCE GLORY FROM SONOMA BACH
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, November 16, 2019
Sonoma Bach Choir, in collaboration with Barefoot All-Stars Viol Consort and The Whole Noyse Brass Ensemble, presented “Sing Glorious Praetorius!” November 16 to an almost full Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center. The Soloists were soprano Dianna Morgan, Christopher Fritzsche, (countertenor), m...
Symphony
ECLECTIC INSTRUMENTAL EXCITEMENT IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 16, 2019
Beginning with a scintillating reading of Rossini’s Overture to the Opera “Semiramide,” the Sonoma County Philharmonic performed a splendid program Nov. 16 in the Jackson Theater, and featured two additional works, one showcasing the winner of the San Francisco Conservatory’s Young Artist Award. It...
Chamber
SPIRITUAL LATE BEETHOVEN QUARTET HIGHLIGHTS MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 10, 2019
Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Op. 131, called “unparalleled in its inexhaustibility” by critic Thomas May, is a daunting challenge. Orchestral in concept, filled with wit and charm, melancholy and fury, it almost overwhelms listeners. Playing the frenetic Scherzo, a viol...
Symphony
MUSICAL EXTRAVAGANCE IN UNIQUE SRS CONCERT IN WEILL HALL
by Terry McNeill
Monday, November 04, 2019
It was a concert full of surprises Nov. 4 as the Santa Rosa Symphony responded to the area’s wild fires and evacuations with challenging, songful and somewhat unique music in Weill Hall. The last of a three-concert series titled "Master of the Modern Banjo" is reviewed here. The evening began with...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Redwood Arts Council / Saturday, October 19, 2019
American Chamber Players. Miles Hoffman, viola; Stephen Balderston, cello; Lorin Kitt, clarinet; Joanna Maurer, violin; Sara Stern, flute; Anna Stoytcheva, piano

American Chamber Players

RARE LEKEU QUARTET HIGHLIGHTS SEASON OPENING RAC CONCERT IN OCCIDENTAL

by Nicki Bell
Saturday, October 19, 2019

The five musicians of the American Chamber Players brought mostly unfamiliar music to their Oct. 19 Redwood Arts Council concert in Occidental’s intimate Performing Arts Center.

Violist and group founder Miles Hoffman spoke briefly to the audience to open the evening.  An instantly engaging speaker, he has been heard for years on NPR’s “Coming to Terms” and has authored NPR Classical Music Companion, and discussed the program which proved to be varied, fascinating and delightful.  It was a first concert with RAC’s 40th season and the hall’s new piano, a Kawai grand with beautiful tone, and the audience packed the hall.

Mozart’s Flute Quartet in D Major, K.285, set a tone of musical warmth and clarity, with luscious ensemble and a joyous intimacy, like in a large living room with musicians circled on a Persian carpet.  It seemed a music party.  Flutist Sara Stern’s phrasing in the the Mozart was exquisite.  In the Adagio the flute aria soared above plucked strings and led seamlessly right into a joyous Rondo of high spirits.

Three Jewish Songs for viola, cello and piano followed, written by violist Max Raimi in 1980, and they were originally composed for his family to play at Passover family gatherings.  Raimi has written numerous works for the American Chamber Players. Entitled Kuma Echa (Arise Brother), Eliahu Hanovi (Elijah the Prophet) and Nigun Bialik (a wordless melody), these were fun works with a “get up and dance” spirit, and likely are meant to be heard while having shots of slivovitz, a lethal Balkan brandy.

Philippe Gaubert’s “Three Watercolors” for flute, cello and piano (1926) filled out the first half.  Gracious, impressionistic, lyrical, they were beautiful showcases for the Ms. Stern, cellist Stephen Balderson and pianist Anna Stoytcheva. The music was played with great attention to color and nuance, and unfolded with grace. “On a Clear Morning” was played with flashes and ripples of compelling sound.  “Autumn Evening” was far quieter and atmospheric, with beautiful cello and flute duets. There was Debussy character in the music with suggestions of darkness to come. The final “Serenade” was performed with a dance spirit, the playing imaginative and akin a story being told. Many in the audience smiled at the conclusion.

Intermission featured wine, home-baked goodies, CD’s of 40 years of artists who have played at the RAC, a raffle and time for strolling through the adjoining art gallery.

Beethoven’s “La ci dame la mano” Variations (from Act 1 of Mozart’s Opera “Don Giovanni”), was written when the composer was 25, and arranged here for flute, violin and viola. The piece was full of charm, texture and mood, each instrument having their variation to shine.  As in the best of chamber music, the performance felt like a game of finishing each other’s sentences, and it brimmed with lightness and humor. The audience was chuckling as it ended with a “the…end”
     
The last piece, a two movement B Minor Quartet for piano and strings by Guillaume Lekeu was quite novel and captivating. Coming to Paris from Belgium to study with Franck and later D’Indy, Lekeu died at 24 from typhoid fever. This quartet, unfinished in 1894, was his last work.  A very passionate first movement (“Dans un emportement douloureux”) is followed by a expressive nocturne (“Lent et passionne”), and the entire work was completed by D’Indy.  A third movement, a culmination of the other two, was never written.  Mr. Hoffman said from the stage that “Given the sumptuousness of the first movement and the extraordinary, almost unearthly beauty of the second, this would be been quite an accomplishment”.  In its first public performance in Paris in 1896, Debussy insisted on being the pianist.

Rich and passionate, the Lekeu Quartet was played passionately with appeals to happiness, cries of love, pain and suffering, despair and joy. Full sonorities played at full throttle.  The beauty of the piano line and the marvelous violinist Joanna Maurer shining forth made a combination that was both potent snd exhilarating. Dark and quiet, the second movement was played in a way that consoled the spirit. Rich Romantic emotions seem to be reflected in thee faces of the musicians, especially from Ms. Maurer, perhaps both sad and profound.  

At the end there was a standing ovation, the only possible response to the performance.

Sonia Morse Tubridy contributed to this review.