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Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
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...
CHORAL AND VOCAL REVIEW

Counter Christopher Fritzsche

INSPIRED SONOMA BACH CONCERT IN GLAZER CENTER

by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, October 26, 2019

On October 25 Sonoma County residents were being put on notice that due to the wind-whipped and rapidly spreading Kincade Fire in Geyserville, many parts of the county would soon need be evacuated. Sonoma State University had closed the campus for the weekend, which meant that Sonoma Bach's season opener, scheduled for the afternoon of the 26th, would have to have to be moved from Schroeder Hall to a different venue.

That venue luckily turned out to be the Glaser Center in downtown Santa Rosa, a comfortably sized and appropriately intimate space for the Green Mountain Consort, Live Oak Baroque Orchestra, countertenor Christopher Fritzsche and lutenist Kevin Cooper to work their magic in a program of lovely secular Elizabethan music, led by Robert Worth.

The recital was entitled This Scepter'd Isle, and featured the works of four Elizabethan all-stars: madrigals and songs by Byrd and John Wilbye, dance music of Antony Holborne, and lute pieces and songs by Dowland. The recital was by turns light and lively, dreamy or melancholy, beautifully balanced and paced. It was cleverly organized thematically by text and mood into nine groups of three pieces: a vocal solo followed by a dance piece and then a madrigal for either four or five voices, with additional opening and closing pieces for each half of the program.

For a group of worried people both onstage and off (me included), it was an oasis of inspiring virtuosity and beauty.

Live Oak members included violinists Aaron Westman and Anna Washburn; Maria Caswell, viola; William Skeen and Mary Springfels playing viol; and Phebe Craig, organ, and they played the dances of Holborne brilliantly and were joined by guest lutenist Kevin Cooper who also played the theorbo. Mr. Cooper mostly played the long-necked theorbo, which served as a plucked or strummed bass anchor for the instrumental ensemble, and switched to the smaller bent-neck lute with its brighter, dryer quality for his solo accompaniments. His featured solo, Dowland's beloved "Lacrimae pavan", brought the room to a sonic `standstill. One Dowland song in the second half, "Go crystal tears", featured the countertenor accompanied by viola and viols, and gave a plainer, ever so slightly harsh and emotionally honest quality that I loved.

The song texts, all anonymous save Byrd's "My mind to me a kingdom is" by Sir Edward Dyer, were very entertaining, very contemporary, and prove the old saw that the more things change, the more they stay the same. They ran the gamut of emotional content, from playful to enamored to miserable. I was glad to have the printed texts in hand because due to multiple voices all going together, often at delightfully breakneck speed, plus staggered entrances and high-sitting vocal lines, understanding the words was challenging.

Guest counter-tenor Christopher Fritzsche brought a beautifully clear and resonant mezzo-soprano to the proceedings, joining the Consort as the fifth voice on several of the madrigals. The high tessitura of his solos, particularly Dowland's beautiful "Come heavy sleep", did not at all strain his resources. He sang with great evenness of tone, with agility to match his beauty of his sound, and he sailed through the demanding program.

The complex demands of one-on-a-part madrigal singing are formidable. Pure tone, pitch, blend, and perfect ensemble are needed to create an experience of effortlessly casual musical making. It goes without saying that the Green Mountain Consort (Dianna Morgan, soprano; Ruth Escher, mezzo-soprano; Paul Haile, tenor; and bass Robert Worth) possess all the above qualities, and they performed superbly one tasty madrigal after another. With Mr. Worth needing only to begin and end pieces, they sang virtually flawlessly as one mind, one voice.

Ms. Morgan's pure and flexible soprano soared over the lower voices, but never dominated the group. I heard every voice distinctly: Ms. Escher's warm mezzo, Mr. Haile's bright high tenor and Mr. Worth's mellifluous bass. Mr. Fritzsche joined as alto on several five-part numbers.

Altogether it was a charming and inspiring afternoon, the audience dispersed seemingly fortified to take care of homes and families (some to evacuate a mere twelve hours later), uplifted by this splendid concert.