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Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now they seem to be on almost ever...
Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the season’s final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church, as the performers...
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.