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Recital
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
BROWNE, PAREMSKI HEAD STELLAR CAST AT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 09, 2020
The Sunday, Feb. 9, performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony offered a healthy dose of 21st century music firmly bound to the 19th. Matt Browne’s first symphony, “The Course of Empire”—based on a series of five paintings by Thomas Cole, who founded the Hudson River School of American painting in the ...
Symphony
FRENCH ORCHESTRAL MUSIC A FIRST FOR THE SO CO PHILHARMONIC
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 02, 2020
Over many years the Sonoma County Philharmonic has played little French music, but perhaps this oversight was corrected Feb. 2 in a splendid all-Gallic program Feb. 1 and 2 in the Jackson Theater. Classical Sonoma reviewed the Sunday afternoon concert. In his eighth conducting season with the So C...
Symphony
POLISH MUSICAL WORLDS GLOW BRIGHT IN NFM WROCLAW WEILL PERFORMANCE
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, February 01, 2020
The NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic, with conductor Giancarlo Guerrero, gave a concert of enormous energy and emotional impact on Feb.1 to a small audience in Weill Hall. This orchestra has been a major cultural force in Poland since 1949, playing under many renowned conductors and has been committed to pr...
Opera
EXTRAVAGANT ARIAS IN NEXT GENERATION TENORS GALA VALLEJO CONCERT
by Mark Kratz
Saturday, February 01, 2020
“Beautiful, strange, and unnatural…” said orchestra conductor Thomas Conlin when speaking of the tenor voice. One of the coveted voice types of the opera world, the tenor voice is known for it’s piercing tones and soaring, unnatural high notes. The iconic image of the Pagliacci clown (in the famed...
STRING QUINTETS, RARE AND FAMILIAR, IN SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, January 26, 2020
One hundred attendees in Schroeder Hall were treated Jan. 26 to a pair of stirring two-cello string quintets: Schubert’s much beloved masterpiece Quintet in C (D. 956), and Catoire’s Quintet in C minor (Op. 16), the latter mostly a forgotten work written in 1909. The performers were violinist Victo...
Chamber
MOSTLY MOZART WITH A LITTLE BEETHOVEN AND SOR IN NAPA
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 26, 2020
Sharing the stage with a local diva is a tough task for even seasoned musicians, but Napa College faculty soprano Christina Howell stole the show Jan. 26 when the Napa Valley Music Associates presented an eclectic program of mostly Mozart music. Somehow compositions of Sor and Beethoven joined the m...
Chamber
CHALLENGING WORKS IN GOULD TRIO'S MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 26, 2020
The Gould Piano Trio, founded 28 years ago by violinist Lucy Gould, has been one of the UK’s most prestigious ensembles. Its January 26 performance in Mill Valley Chamber Music Society’s series demonstrated how richly they deserve that reputation. The concert, held at the Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Chu...
Chamber
LOCAL MUSICIANS SHINE IN MTAC BENEFIT CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 25, 2020
After a fire-related postponement of four months, the Sonoma County Chapter of the Music Teachers Association of California Jan. 25 gave their annual scholarship benefit in a charming Sebastopol home. Showcasing local musicians in an intimate setting with two pianos, the first half highlights inclu...
Symphony
MOZART MASTERWORK HIGHLIGHTS MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 25, 2020
Excitement was palpable in the Marin Civic Center Auditorium Jan. 25 as the Marin Symphony in splendid full force took the stage for a richly textured Masterworks II program. Prevented from giving its first Masterworks offering by the wildfire-caused blackouts last October, the orchestra returned wi...
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.