Home  Reviews  Articles  Calendar  Presenters  Add Event     
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...
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
Devon House Garden Concerts / Sunday, November 1, 2020
Santa Rosa Symphony Musicians: Jay Zhong, Joseph Edelberg,
Michelle Maruyama and Karen Shinozaki, violin; Elizabeth Prior, viola; Kelley Maulbetsch, cello

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. Ghosts, pumpkins and clutches of bright fall leaves adorned SRS Principal Violist Elizabeth Prior’s San Rafael back yard. Since summer, she has hosted small open-air concerts, a rarity these months, and this was the last of the series and the circumstances were perfect. The blue sky was brushed lightly with trailing clouds and there was the slightest chill in the air. The audience, masked and socially distanced, faced a canopy that served as a stage for a luscious offering of duos, hence the playful title for the concert, “Double Trouble.”

The musicians in the sextet were SRS Concertmaster Joseph Edelberg; Associate Concertmaster Jay Zhong; Second Violin Principal Karen Shinozaki-Sor and Assistant Principal Michelle Maruyama; Ms. Prior; and cellist Kelley Maulbetsch. Trading off solo turns, the ensemble, happily equal in excellence, needed no conductor. They were perfectly in sync.

Ms. Prior and Ms. Maulbetsch launched the program with the first movement of Beethoven’s “Eyeglasses” duo, composed in 1796-97 but not published until 1912 (which may account for the fact that it is little known). From the first notes it was enthralling. Beethoven, who played viola, is thought to have written it for his friend Nicholas Zmeskall, an amateur cellist and composer. Indeed, its equal interchanges and lovely singing harmonies express an affectionate, playful friendship. The movement seemed complete in itself (a second movement exists, but the third movement was never completed). The viola and cello’s mellow voices blended and diverged and met again. One led, the other followed; they changed roles, then returned to close harmonies. The title “Eyeglasses” is believed to be Beethoven’s teasing allusion to the fact that his friend was shortsighted.

Ms. Shinozaki-Sor and Ms. Maruyama then gave a magnetic reading of five of Béla Bartók’s 44 Duos for Two Violins, composed in 1931. These intriguing, short pieces (none more than a minute long) are based on the Hungarian, Romanian, Serbian, Bulgarian and Transylvanian folk melodies Bartók collected as a ethnomusicologist in the early 1900s, often with his friend and fellow student Zoltán Kodály. The exotic lines and emphatic rhythms in these gems were played with respect for their harmonic dissonance and were endlessly compelling.

The six musicians next unwound a foot-stomping arrangement of a hoedown by musical polyglot Mark O’Connor, who is equally at home with bluegrass, country, jazz and classical music. The rousing dance tune, usually played on fiddle, guitar and banjo, was given a breakneck performance, threatening to spin out of control but here always in check.

The first movement of Mozart’s G Major Duo (K. 423) was next for Ms. Maruyama and Ms. Prior, who performed the glittering Allegro from his String Duo No. 1 in G major for violin and viola. At times introspective, the movement was played with exalted follow-the-leader passages and was a true celebration of equal voices. An intriguing factoid is that Mozart submitted the duo under Michael Haydn's name as the sixth of Haydn’s set of duos for the Prince Archbishop Colloredo, and apparently the Archbishop couldn’t discern the music from Mozart’s hand.

The next treat in the generous program was the first movement from Chen Yi’s Double Violin Concerto, performed by Mr. Zhong and Ms. Maruyama. The composition was premiered in 1996 in honor of Yehudi Menuhin. Mr. Zhong remarked that he has a special connection with the composer through her brother, who was the concertmaster of the Beijing Symphony when Mr. Zhong played with them. Ms. Chen, a prolific composer who teaches at the University of Missouri’s Conservatory of Music and Dance, was born in China in 1953, and raised on Western classical music. Her music synthesizes Western and Chinese music, incorporating village and city sounds, folk song and folk opera. This selection, a fine weave of all the instruments, was played with a piquant blend of sonorities that were captivating and novel.

For their final two performances, the ensemble entered a heavenly realm with two great Baroque concertos for two violins: Vivaldi’s A minor, RV522, Op. 3, No. 8 (l’estro armonico) and Bach’s D minor (BWV 1043). Mr. Edelberg and Ms. Shinozaki-Sor were the soloists for the Vivaldi and Mr. Zhong and Ms. Maruyama soloed in the Bach. The concertos are beloved and familiar, yet individually they are so complex and so skillfully woven that they are always a fresh revelation. The Vivaldi’s third movement’s luscious harmonies were like a meadow of bird song. The exquisite Bach, his only concerto for two violins, braided a stream of bright colors, and the Andante movement performance was simply glorious. Throughout the performances the six musicians maintained the illusion of a small orchestra, and only during the final movement of the Bach did one yearn for a double bass to add depth to Ms. Maulbetsch’s expressive cello continuo.

As the last notes of the sublime Bach lingered on the air, the audience clapped in appreciation, then rose to mingle with the musicians, enjoying gratis refreshments in the waning afternoon light.