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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...
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.