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Recital
ECLECTIC PIANISM IN SPRING LAKE VILLAGE VIRTUAL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, May 5, 2021
During the pandemic The Santa Rosa Symphony’s virtual concerts received their due in performance praise, but another series, Spring Lake Village, more quietly presented monthly virtual concerts to a select local audience. May 5 saw the latest event, produced by impresario Robert Hayden, and feature...
Symphony
SONIC CONTRASTS HIGHLIGHT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SPRING PROGRAM
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 25, 2021
In a curious mixture of compositions, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s penultimate virtual concert of the season April 25 unfolded in ways both highly satisfying and a bit perplexing. Directed by resident Music Director Francesco Lecce-Chong, the event followed a familiar format – several contemporary wor...
Symphony
ZUILL PLAYS ZWILICH WITH SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The Santa Rosa Symphony took a cautious step toward the return of live music in their March 28 virtual concert by sharing the stage with an actual live soloist rather than an apparition. Star cellist Zuill Bailey was still masked, and his back was toward the equally masked and plexiglassed orchestra...
Chamber
ECLECTIC CELLO PIANO VIRTUAL RECITAL FROM TOMKINS ZIVIAN DUO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The venerable 41-year Redwood Arts Council Series in Occidental has joined the virtual recital world with low budget but artistically satisfying programs, mostly using videos filmed in the performer’s residences. March 28 saw the Tanya Tomkins-Eric Zivian duo present an eclectic program from their ...
Symphony
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....
CHORAL AND VOCAL REVIEW
St. Cecilia Choir & Cantiamo Sonoma with the Incarnation Orchestra / Friday, April 10, 2009
Conductor: J. Karla Lemon
Soloists: Carol Menke, soprano; Christopher Fritzsche, alto; Kevin Baum, tenor; Tom Hart, bass

GOOD FRIDAY GETS BETTER WITH HAYDN MASS

by Steve Osborn
Friday, April 10, 2009

Franz Joseph Haydn was not quite as prolific with masses as with symphonies, but he did he write 14 of the former nonetheless. For their annual Good Friday concert on April 10, the St. Cecilia Choir joined forces with Cantiamo, the Incarnation Orchestra, four soloists and conductor J. Karla Lemon to perform No. 12, the Theresienmesse, in the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa.

The crowded conditions around the altar were more than reflected in the church itself, where ushers had to squeeze at least seven people into pews that normally hold only five or six. The oversold house only added to the festive atmosphere and to the close connection many in the audience felt to their hometown choirs, soloists and orchestra.

The program notes provided no history of the mass itself, so a little bit may be in order here. Late in his life, Haydn was commissioned to write a series of masses for the annual name’s day celebration of Princess Maria Hermengild, the wife of Haydn’s longtime employer, Nikolaus Esterhazy. Haydn wrote six, including four in B flat major, probably because B flat was the highest note he expected of the sopranos.

The Theresienmesse, one of the four B-flatters, was named for Maria Theresa of the Two Sicilies, the Austrian emperor’s wife. She also happened to be a soprano soloist who sang in Haydn’s oratorios, but it’s unclear if she was the soloist in the original performance of the Theresienmesse in 1799. What is clear is that the soprano part is one of Haydn’s loveliest, filled with ravishing runs and sprightly rhythms.

The same could be said for the other solo parts, and for the choral writing itself, which is every bit the equal of the soloists throughout the mass. The whole mass, in fact, is so joyous and infectious that it’s hard to imagine it inhabiting the same space as a droning sermon.

No sermon was in evidence at this performance, other than an apologetic announcement for the need to squeeze more souls into the pews. The completely packed church resembled steerage on an 18th-century sailing vessel, with the church’s beautiful struts and beams looking for all the world like the ribbing of a ship, and with the traffic noise coming through the open doors and windows serving as the ocean.

The captain of the craft, Maestra Lemon, kept a steady hand on the helm. She is a bilaterally symmetric conductor, given to extending both arms at full length, planting her feet on the ground, and swaying at the waist. Her tempi were brisk but not hurried, her cues precise, her control of dynamics exemplary. Conducting from the floor, without a podium, she had no trouble gaining everyone’s attention, even from choristers whose heads are normally buried in their scores.

Singing against a purple backdrop of a stylized crown of thorns, the combined choirs showed strength in the opening Kyrie and kept getting better. The sopranos and tenors hit their high notes with ease, and the basses and altos offered solid counterpoint.

The soloists — soprano Carol Menke, alto Chris Fritzsche, tenor Kevin Baum and bass Tom Hart — got to shine in the Gloria, particularly in the “Domine Deus” section, where their well-rounded voices blended seamlessly. They filled the church with glorious sound, hampered only by the somewhat muffled acoustics at the upper end.

Lemon propelled the dance-like Credo through its paces, drawing good articulation from the choir and a full dynamic range from the small orchestra. The lilting 6/8 rhythms of the outer sections made for a strong contrast to the quietude of the middle, where the soloists sing of Christ’s crucifixion.

By the time the Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei rolled around, the assembled forces had fully gelled and seemed capable of far more than a 45-minute mass. Sadly, encores were not to be, even though the audience kept clapping after the soloists and choir had left the altar. Perhaps the next Good Friday concert could include some appropriate orchestral music in addition to the requisite mass.