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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...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Napa Valley Music Associates / Sunday, January 26, 2020
William Corbett-Jones and Mark Osten, piano; Christina Howell, soprano; Daniel Lewin, violin; Eric Symons, guitar

Marcia Battat Greets Performers at the Jan. 26 in Napa (N. Rorick photo)

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 mix.

Before an audience of 200 in the downtown Napa First Presbyterian Church Ms. Howell appeared twice with pianist Mark Osten, singing three of Mozart’s most popular songs, and the “Et Incarnates Est” aria from the C Minor Mass, K. 427. Her resonant voice was heard well in the upper registers in the problematic acoustics of the large church, and big thematic projection was needed and came with “An Chloe” (K 524) and the nostalgic and lyrical “Abendempfindug”, K. 523.

Ms. Howell’s ebullient personality and verbal introductions from the stage enhanced her last song, “Das Veilchen” (K. 476), pairing well with Mr. Osten’s fluent pianism, though at less than mezzo forte the German words tended to be less clear, at least at the back of the church with its extended reverberation. It was dramatic and convincing singing, agile when the music demanded, and spotlighted three gems from Mozart’s compact group of art songs.

Guitarist Eric Symons then played three Sor works, with one Mozart connection in the Op. 9 Variations on “O’Cara Armonia” from the 1791 Opera “The Magic Flute.” Mr. Symon’s substantial stage presence was equaled by his un-amplified playing, and after a too long spoken introduction his plucked six-string instrument had a resonant and rich sound. He used various speeds of vibrato for effect, and the fast variants with arpeggios were telling. The Etude in B Minor followed, a piece the artist first learned at age 12, and featured symmetrical phrasing and quiet repetitions.

The final Op. 15 Sor Sonata was oddly similar to Mozart’s music, with lots of filigree, upward flourishes that equaled in clarity in contrary descending phrases in much repetition. Mr. Symons played from score but seldom looked at the music. He cradles his instrument as with a young child.

Returning with the deft Mr. Osten’s fine pianism, Ms. Howell soared often into high registers with Melisma in the aria from the Mass, showing impressive emotional power in swirling sound that often echoed the piano line. In her interpretation the work, especially in the cadenza, sounded more Romantic than Classical, and was an afternoon highlight.

Violinist Daniel Lewin joined pianist William Corbett-Jones to close the concert with Beethoven’s G major Romance, Op. 40, and Mozart’s short A Major Sonata, K. 305. Playing from score, Mr. Levin played a lovely introduction to the Romance that quickly shaded flat, but as he found his intonation footing the music (it is often played with orchestra) had more security. Mr. Corbett-Jones, a stellar Beethoven and Mozart specialist with decades of musical triumphs, played with lyrical charm.

The Sonata was performed with the requisite lightness and warm phrasing, and at times the violinist’s line was covered by the piano sound, even with the house instrument’s lid closed . It was playing in the “gallant” style with varied string vibrato, and with Mr. Corbett-Jones playing fetching legato phrases, and trading thematic statements with Mr. Lewin. They clearly have an affinity for this music. This Sonata from the late 1770s is far removed from those of Haydn, and the variations in the second movement were played in a suitably leisurely way, never heavy or demanding on the ear. It was the longest work on the program but it never seemed long.

Following audience applause Impresario Marcia Battat announced Napa Valley Music Associates concerts in March, May and June (dates TBA), and directed listeners to a gratis lavish lobby buffet with wines from the up-and-coming Lekker Napa Vineyards.