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Chamber
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 08, 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...
Choral and Vocal
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...
Chamber
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...
Chamber
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
Chamber
BEETHOVEN'S VALENTINE'S DAY GIFT IN RAC SEBASTOPOL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, February 14, 2020
Continuing a season of Redwood Arts Council successes, the Kouzov Duo performed an eclectic Valentine’s Day concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church before an audience of 125. Beethoven’s charming Op. 66 Variations on Mozart’s “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from the opera the Magic Flute was a bouncy ...
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...
BROWNE, PAREMSKI HEAD STELLAR CAST AT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 09, 2020
The 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 1820s—emp...
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...
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.