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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...
CHORAL AND VOCAL REVIEW
Sonoma Bach / Saturday, October 26, 2019
Live Oak Baroque Orchestra. Robert Worth, director. Green Mountain Consort. Kevin Cooper, lute; Christopher Fritzsche, countertenor; Maria Caswell, viola; William Skeen and Mary Springfield, viol; Phebe Craig, organ; Aaron Westman and Anna Washburn, violin

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.