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Symphony
ZUILL PLAYS ZWILICH WITH SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The Santa Rosa Symphony took a cautious step toward the return of live music in their March 28 virtual concert by sharing the stage with an actual live soloist rather than an apparition. Star cellist Zuill Bailey was still masked, and his back was toward the equally masked and plexiglassed orchestra...
Chamber
ECLECTIC CELLO PIANO VIRTUAL RECITAL FROM TOMKINS ZIVIAN DUO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The venerable 41-year Redwood Arts Council Series in Occidental has joined the virtual recital world with low budget but artistically satisfying programs, mostly using videos filmed in the performer’s residences. March 28 saw the Tanya Tomkins-Eric Zivian duo present an eclectic program from their ...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HITS THE SWEET SPOT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Small orchestras can inhabit a sweet spot between chamber ensembles and full orchestras, but how well they hit that spot depends on the composer's orchestration and the players' ability to project. That dependence was on full display in the Santa Rosa Symphony's Feb. 28 concert, which featured three...
Chamber
NOVEL OBOE-HARPSICHORD RECITAL FROM AIKEN DUO IN UKIAH
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Oboe and harpsichord recitals are a rare North Bay event, even in a pandemic environment where a formal hall setting isn’t available. So it was a delight Feb. 21 to experience on the Ukiah Symphony’s website a recital by Symphony oboist Beth Aiken and harpsichordist husband Tom. The Aiken home vis...
Symphony
A HEALTHY MIX OF TRANSCRIPTIONS AND ORIGINALS FROM THE SR SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Transcriptions and ascending arpeggios were the order of the day on Jan. 24, as the Santa Rosa Symphony performed uplifting works by Bach/Webern, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Marianna Martínes and Mozart. The concert video was made in Weill Hall on Jan. 9. The first transcription was Webern’s 1935 renderi...
Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
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...
CHAMBER REVIEW

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.