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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...
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...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Ukiah Symphony / Sunday, February 21, 2021
Beth Aiken, oboe and English horn; Tom Aiken, harpsichord

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 visuals were simple and concert dress was absent, but the six-foot Flemish single manual blue case harpsichord had a soundboard lavishly decorated with flower designs, and Ms. Aiken played both a conventional oboe and a baroque oboe, along with an English horn. Each of the composers in the 33-minute recital were mostly unknown to this reviewer, and each piece had announcements by the performers without attendant printed title information on the screen.

Beginning with Chris Lastovicka’s “Laska” the English horn sounded full in the small room, Ms. Aiken playing without score and with beguiling melancholy through the four minutes. Two works from Ross Edwards followed, one "Yanada" meaning moon in Australian Aboriginal language, the highlights being the long solo oboe line and high register upward scale passages, with several dark night visuals of animals and the moon. I think the animals were kangaroos. An odd juxtaposition of music and art.

Mr. Aiken performed a short solo by composer Edward Mclean, a fantasy-like first movement ("Brise") from his Sonata, and “Incantations.” A two-manual 18th Century German style instrument was used. The three-movement "Incantations" had fast second movement, though quite relaxed in tempo, and featured the Baroque oboe and a long plaintive introduction that reminded one of the haunting prelude to the third act of Wagner’s opera “Tristan and Isolde.”

Ms. Aiken played from score with lovely echo effects in combination with the harpsichord line. Instrumental balances in this work and throughout were excellent, and in the Andante finale’s lingering ending the feeling was peaceful with long-held oboe notes. According to the composer's comments, the solo oboe sections were based upon an interest in native American flute music.

The Aiken duo also performed Ennio Mariconne’s “Gabriel’s Oboe” from the 1986 British drama film “The Mission,” and here Ms. Aiken chose the Baroque instrument. Only three minutes in length, the performance was underscored by Mr. Aiken’s symmetrical chords and soft arpeggios.