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Choral and Vocal
A SEASONAL MESSIAH WITH BALANCE AND HEFT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 10, 2017
The mid-December concert season seems for jaded reviewers to invariably include a Messiah performance, and perhaps a Messiah in a long string of similar and mundane performances. This was decidedly not the case when San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque mounted Handel’s eminent three-part 1742 Orato...
Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony concert featured two elegant and refined guests: music director candidate Andrew Grams and pianist Stewart Goodyear. Both displayed dazzling technique and consummate artistry, but Goodyear was the more consistent of the two. Some of Grams’ inconsistency may have st...
Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
Chamber
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the ...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Absolute Music / Sunday, March 08, 2009
Norma Brown, Piano
Joe Edelberg, Violin
Carol Menke, Soprano
Kati Kyme, Viola
Thalia Moore, Cello
Ken Miller, Bass

Soprano Carol Menke

SUNSHINE IN MUSIC

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 08, 2009

After a week of rain, a “mostly Schubert” concert on March 8 in Santa Rosa’s Friedman Center was a welcome blue-sky tonic. As the Russian virtuoso Anton Rubinstein once said, “Ah, Schubert, sunshine in music.”

Produced by Absolute Music, the concert honored founders Alfred and Susanne Batzdorff on their 65th wedding anniversary, and the 150 attending came to applaud the ever-young couple and sample some of the Viennese composer’s best works for small ensemble.

The short Sonatina in D for Piano and Violin, D. 384, began the program with the proper Schubertian lilt. Violinist Joseph Edelberg combined with the rhythmic certainty of pianist Norma Brown to shape the lovely themes. Though the piece was shaky in the first movement, all was secure in the fetching Andante. Edelberg never tries to project the big line, content to let his chaste sound make subtle musical points. The piece turns dramatic in the concluding Allegro vivace, and the musicians made the many tempo variations effective and colorful.

Soprano Carol Menke joined Brown in three Schubert songs, along with four from Vaughn Williams (with Edelberg), to conclude the first half. Menke is the sine qua non of Sonoma County singers, always dependably delivering the musical goods with faultless diction, piquant phrasing and tonal opulence. In Schubert’s “Der Neugierige,” she exhibited faultless control of pianissimos, and in his “Die Gebusche,” she followed the many modulations with yearning, floating high-register notes.

The Vaughn Williams songs, to poems by A.E. Housman, were mostly short and beguiling. “We’ll to the Woods No More” felt like the famous “Lark Ascending” for violin and orchestra, and Edelberg proved a deft, dead-on pitch partner. The darker “In the Morning, in the Morning” and the lively “Good-Bye” were objects lessons in restrained and masterful singing.

Following an intermission where all kinds of food and drink (for purchase) were consumed, Menke returned for a final song, Schubert’s “Die Forelle,” whose melody is used in the fourth movement of the “Trout” Quintet, Op. 114, which closed the concert. Each stanza of the song had a different texture, the final two lines settling in a convincing way the plight of the angler contesting the wary fish.

In the opening Allegro of the quintet, bassist Ken Miller used the high stage’s resonance to project a larger-than-usual low sound. The approach adjusted quickly as pianist Brown brought the balances into order, allowing the treble to sound warm and letting the playful nature of the music shine through. Schubert never wrote a happier work. The Andante and Scherzo were well played, not note perfect, but stylistically assured. Swooping ritards were not part of the performance, and the phrasing eschewed large variations. Violinist Edelberg led the pastoral but at times wild finale, trading voice leading with violist Kati Kyme. The big false cadence in this Allegro Giusto leads back to what some may find a banal theme, but what wonders Schubert weaves into it! The players seemed to give it a Hungarian twist, with the piano runs sparkling and pushing to a forceful conclusion.

No encores were offered, but the audience was more than sated with such melodic richness and proficient virtuosity from singer and players alike.