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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
Alexander Sitkovetsky and Wu Qian / Sunday, February 23, 2020
Alexander Sitkovetsky, violin; Wu Qian, piano

Alexander Sitkovetsky and Wu Qian At Mill Valley Recital (C. Lowenthal Photo)

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. The clear, balanced acoustics of Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church were ideal for this intimate music.

Their program opened with de Falla’s Siete Canciones Populares Españolas, written in 1914 for soprano and piano, but here in the transcription by violinist Paul Kochanski, who worked closely with de Falla to transcribe six of the seven. Each song is a mini-masterpiece representing a different style and region of Spain. All deal with the vicissitudes of love, and stir up the soul. The duo’s reading was magnetic. Mr. Sitkovetsky’s rich sonorities were burnished, almost as though he was playing the viola or even a cello, and Ms. Qian’s pianism was equally beautiful. The musicians immersed the large audience in the Spanish spirit.

The mood turned from Spanish passion to agitated exuberance in Schumann’s Sonata No. 2 in D minor, Op. 121. Mr. Sitkovetsky moved a second music stand next to the first, explaining to the audience, “No rests,” for there is literally no place in the score for the violinist to take a musical rest in the first movement. Strongly bowed slashes of rising and falling notes lent the movement a feeling of urgency and discomfort. The intensity never let up, with offset rhythms speaking of yearning and inner turmoil.

The sonata was premiered by Clara Schumann and Josef Joachim. It’s dedicated to violinist Ferdinand David, and employs the musical triad D-A-F-D in the violin and piano parts. Near the end of the second movement a chorale melody from the last movement of Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio in C Minor makes its way into the music. Mendelssohn had died four years earlier and this may have been Schumann’s memorial tribute. The tender third movement Romanza, written in the Spanish style, had an extended and lovely pizzicato progression which was then lyrically taken up by the piano. Mr. Sitkovetsky’s double-note technique here and throughout the concert was exciting, as were Ms. Qian’s piano arpeggios, now slow, now lightning-swift. The fourth movement, harkening back to themes of the first movement, was played as a race with time.

Following intermission the artists returned with Stravinsky’s Suite Italienne from his ballet Pulcinella. There are six movements in the suite, which Stravinsky called “My discovery of the past, the epiphany through which the whole of my late works became possible.” He wrote it for orchestra and subsequently for violin and piano (two versions) and cello and piano. The suite is alternately mournful, ironic, edgy, and joyful, evoking endless images and scenes: a thicket of birdsong; a Scottish dance; baby chicks hopping about; a fox creeping toward a henhouse; a lumbering bear; a shimmering sky. It was a exciting performance first to last.

Ms. Qian’s golden, warm sound, deft legato pedaling and the lightness of her trills cast a spell.

The final work in the evening was Grieg’s splendid Sonata for Violin and Piano in C minor, Op. 45. Although imbued with national feeling, this is not just national music, as it’s heavy with shadow and buoyant with hope, and this performance touched all the emotions. It has inexpressibly sweet lyrical sections, and sections where all aspirations were plunged into shadow, and throughout, intimations of mysterious forces seemingly were at work. It was a masterful performance of the middle movement Romanza.

When the duo finished the Grieg, the audience jumped up to applaud them. After three curtain calls, the artists took the stage again to play a show stopping czardas from 1904 by Vittorio Monti. Before beginning, Mr. Sitkovetsky confided from the stage that he had first played the piece at the age of 12. The duo then launched into gypsy mode with dramatic rubatos and breakneck speed for a boffo finish.