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MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 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...
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...
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...
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 REVIEW

Laura Magnani at ECHO Concert (A. Wasserman Photo)

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 performed by ECHO percussionists Christian Foster Howes and Alapaki Yee. Mr. Yee explained from the stage that "Kaizen" is a Japanese term “about the small, consistent changes we go through in our lives.” From its opening strikes and rolls, the piece immersed the audience in insistent pulse, pitch changes, shifting tempos, and surprising tonalities. It was a reminder of how musical drumming can be. The musicians formed intricate patterns with buttery taps, sharp strikes, thunder-like rolls and rumbles, and tuneful variations in pitch. It was mesmerizing. At the conclusion there was a split second of silence, then the audience showered the composers with applause and the kind of whistles one hears at a sports game.

The next surprise was to see the piano positioned on the platform at the rear of the stage for Laura Magnani’s performance of Mozart’s D Minor Concerto, No. 20, K. 466. Mozart wrote some of his most heartrending music in D minor, including the Requiem and parts of the opera Don Giovanni. Before taking her seat at the piano, Ms. Magnani described the avant-garde character of the concerto and said that Beethoven, who greatly admired this work, wrote the cadenzas she would perform.

The first Allegro movement began with an ominous orchestral introduction with cries of suffering from the violins. When the piano part entered, its tones rising bell-like above the orchestra, the mood softened, and a seesaw of darkness and light continued throughout the movement. The tension never fully lifted: even in the lovely Romanze second movement, sudden storms arose. The tumultuous third movement, Rondo: Allegro assai, built to a climax, the orchestra providing momentum and pulse, the piano its translucent partner. After thrilling pianistic runs and intricate trills, Ms. Magnani ended the concerto at a gallop. Her playing was lithe and muscular, faithful to the score and spirit, and deeply expressive. The solo cadenzas made a palpable connection between Mozart and Beethoven.

A sustained standing ovation elicited an encore: Chopin’s Fantaisie Impromptu, Op. 66, which Ms. Magnani performed dazzlingly.

In the interval before the final work, Louise Farrenc’s G Minor Symphony No. 3, Opus 36, flutist and Orchestra Manager Carol Adee noted how little about Farrenc appeared in even recent music dictionaries, and how important ECHO considers her music. Last year Mr. Canosa conducted her delightful Nonet. Farrenc (1804-1875) was a virtuoso pianist and prolific composer as well as a faculty member at the Paris Conservatory for 30 years. The first movement, Adagio-Allegro, began with a single eloquent voice from oboist Margot Golding, leading into a pastoral section rich with harmonies of woodwinds and French horns. The symphony calls for a full orchestra, but size was rarely an issue in this ensemble, except during certain beautiful passages where the three cellos could have benefited from additional players for volume.

The horns introduced the Adagio Cantabile, out of which Kyle Beard's clarinet sang an exquisite theme. The unison strings built intensity while overall, the movement remained pastoral. Movement three was played as agitated and alive, with close harmonies of horn, flute, clarinet, oboe and bassoon, while the strings played pizzicato. The concluding Finale-Allegro was thrilling, with the conductor shaping the music to a lyrical mood before its close.

A reception allowed attendees to enjoy refreshments, see local art and mingle with the musicians.