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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
Mill Valley Chamber Music Society / Sunday, November 10, 2019
Telegraph Quartet. Eric Chin and Joseph Maile, violin; Pei-Ling Lin, viola; Jeremiah Shaw, cello

Telegraph Quartet in Mill Valley Nov. 10 (A. Wasserman Photo)

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 violinist once commented, was “like galloping through hell.” But the piece is sublime, and the Telegraph Quartet, performing it Nov. 10 at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church for the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society, fully met its challenges.

The San Francisco-based group: Eric Chin and Joseph Maile, violins; Pei-Ling Lin, viola; and cellist Jeremiah Shaw, delivered a performance of great eloquence, and did so after preceding the Beethoven with two other grand works: Berg’s Quartet No. 3 and Bartók’s Fourth Quartet. The concert was a tour-de-force.

Comments and brief musical illustrations by Messrs. Maile and Chin prefaced each selection. Mr. Maile described Berg’s two-movement piece from 1910 as “packed full of character emotions and overwrought feelings.” In it, Berg, self-taught before composer Arnold Schoenberg became his mentor and teacher, straddles Schoenberg’s twelve-tone technique and the Romantic tradition of their Viennese forbears Brahms and Mahler. Schoenberg wrote of the piece, Berg’s first mature work, that it “surprised me in the most unbelievable way by the fullness and unconstraint of its musical language, the strength and sureness of its presentation, its careful working and significant originality.”

Its first movement, Langsam, is a moody soundscape of sighing rises and sonic falls and agitated trills. Bowing effects conjured up different characters for a four-way dialogue; and even when they harmonize, there’s a broad edge of dissonance. The second movement, Mässiger viertel (“moderate quarter”), further engages the players in a conversation that is punctuated by string tremolos, ponticelli, pizzicati and glissandos. Momentum flags and gathers anew, but the piece ends abruptly, as though its musical momentum has hit a sonic wall.

Bartók’s five-movement Quartet, Mr. Chin explained prior to the performance, is structured in an arc: movements one and five and two and four are connected thematically, with an ethereal third movement, Non troppo lento, as the anchor. He also pointed out that Bartók loved bugs, and we would hear them scurrying around in the piece, as well strong rhythms and haunting melodies of Hungarian folk music the composer meticulously researched and championed.

Throughout the quartet one heard slashing rhythms that brought Stravinsky to mind, but not because Bartók was copying; rather, both composers incorporated similar folk music into compositions. Biting notes and offbeat rhythms characterized some of the most exciting moments in the Bartók, which the Telegraph players attacked with virtuosity and also nuance. The third movement was shimmering night music: melodic, plaintive and moonlit. A bird song similar to Vaughan Williams’ “The Lark Ascending” hovered exquisitely toward movement’s end. Bartôk’s music often shows the importance of inserting calm into the sonic fabric of great intensity, and here he employed different effects to make the strings speak changing idioms. The Allegretto pizzicato fourth movement showcased how varied “mere” string plucking can be, from light clicks to vigorous slaps that Bartôk claimed as his own, the string lifted high so that descending, it loudly slaps the instrument’s wood.

Following intermission the audience settled in for a performance of one of Beethoven’s transcendent quartets. Mr. Maile speculated that chronologically, the Beethoven would have come first on the program, because the others “wouldn’t have been possible” without its innovations. The C-Sharp Minor Quartet is 40 minutes long and has seven movements (unprecedented at the time) and each is played without pause. It begins with a slow fugue, creating a fateful atmosphere that while chorale-like, is reminiscent of Bach’s “descending angels” in some fugues of the Well-Tempered Clavier. The Telegraph players’ instruments blended thrillingly, even in unison projecting distinctive, individual voices.

The most powerful of the seven movements was the fourth, (Andante ma non troppo e molto cantabile), a theme and variations where each variation is played in a different style and by different instrumental combinations. The ensemble’s lively, witty Presto (movement five) sounded like an obsessive spinning wheel, and the final Allegro in sonata form incorporated and reorganized the fugue from the first movement. Responding to the music’s vital force, the Telegraph potently conveyed the resignation, anger and defiance Beethoven wrote into the piece.

As the final passionate notes faded, the Mill Valley audience rose to shower the Telegraph Quartet with accolades.