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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...
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...
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...
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...
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...
CHORAL AND VOCAL REVIEW
Sonoma Bach / Friday, February 28, 2020
Bob Worth, conductor. Agave Baroque

Agave Baroque Ensemble

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 remarkable family.

The telling commenced with a short lecture, presented with a great flair for humor by Henry Lebedinsky, as he told how the Bach family’s musical journey commenced with a refugee fiddler to Germany’s Thuringia, then Johann Christoph, Johann Michael (whose daughter Maria Barbara married Johann Sebastian) and on to Wilhelm Friedemann and Carl Phillip Emmanuel. The family tree is complex and fascinating, with important ties to Frederick the Great, Telemann, eventually even Mendelssohn and Schumann.

The Bachs, in more than five generations, created great works spanning German, Italian and new cosmopolitan musical styles. The giant figure of Johann Sebastian towers over all but he evolved and flourished in an environment shaped by those before him and continued to color the history of music through his gifted sons and their achievements.

Following the talk, the audience of 200 in Schroeder Hall waited with anticipation to hear Agave with their Baroque ensemble. Instead, lights dimmed and the awe inspiring tones of the pipe organ filled the hall with the E Flat Prelude and Fugue by Johann Christoph. This music was emotional, monumental and often tortured in its chromatic and dissonant complexity. This was a shocking and terrifying musical experience and gave context to J.S. Bach's organ works that followed generations later. The explosion of organ energy was followed by the members of Agave performing Johann Michael Bach’s Sonata and Capriccio a 4. This was a welcome contrast, with its sweet sounds being passed from one instrument to another, music of beauty and depth. Detailed phrasing by all the musicians, with the subtle tone colors of the variety of strings, was delightful. Johann Sebastian’s violin sonata with continuo featured an intricate and intelligently moving violin performance by Aaron Westman and exciting cello lines from William Skeen, beautiful string accompaniment by Kevin Cooper’s theorbo, and the magnificent harpsichord playing of Mr. Lebedinsky. The musical cameraderie pervading this Sonata was always evident, whether in sprightly dance rhythms, touching melodic lines or complex fugal worlds.

Next, Johann Christoph Friedrich’s Sonata in A brought a change of style, Italian Gallant, and featured lyrical viola and harpsichord duets. It is worth noting that Mr. Westman and Anna Washburn switched their violin and viola instruments frequently in this program, each contributing their individual mastery and tone qualities while playing with great attentiveness to the other’s parts. Completing the first half of the concert was Ouverture-Suite in G minor by Johann Bernhard Bach. Here we heard the French style with its pomp and formality. This composer was a student of Telemann and was immersed in the transitional styles of the period.

Following intermission the program consisted of two more extended works. First came. Bach’s Trio Sonata from the his Musical Offering. This work in four movements is one of Bach’s last and greatest achievements. There were introductory remarks about Johann Sebastian visiting his son C.P.E. Bach at the court of Frederick the Great and how the Musical Offering came about. Sensitive canons, complex counterpoint and harmony and even some of the “new” styles were included. Anchored by Mr. Skeen’s cello, the ensemble soared.

The concluding work was Trio Sonata in A minor by J.S. Bach’s eldest son Wilhelm Friedemann Bach. Much of his work was lost, so it was another gift of this concert to hear such a seldom performed composer. The composition was in five sections, a structure called cruciform, with symmetrical movements and a canonical middle movement.

There was much applause, then a standing ovation and bravos rewarded the Agave ensemble. In addition to introducing their instruments to the audience with interesting anecdotes, including Mr. Cooper’s baroque guitar, an encore was presented. This was a Bach pedagogical work, his role as teacher exemplified, where Bach had assigned a bass line from a violin sonata to one of his unnamed sons as a composition exercise.