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Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
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.