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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....
CHAMBER REVIEW
California Summer Music / Sunday, July 5, 2009
Faculty Concert

Violist Sheila Browne

SSU WORKSHOP FACULTY SHINES IN UNFAMILIAR WORKS

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 5, 2009

California Summer Music is a musician’s workshop, rotating between college campuses that put young players in small classes with masters of their respective instruments. Sonoma State University is hosting the 2009 event for three weeks in July, and the CSM faculty had a chance July 5 to show the troops how strings and a piano can sing, albeit with non-traditional compositions.

Before 125 avid listeners in the Fred Warren Auditorium, string and piano performers played a concert consisting of mostly unfamiliar music, and discovery was afoot. Beginning with the Theme and Variations movement from Mozart’s E Flat Divertimento (K. 563), violinist Wendy Sharp and violist Scott Woolweaver were joined by cellist Richard Andaya in launching an inventive set of four variations that never strayed far from the richly-hued theme. Written in 1788, the work is Mozart’s only published string trio. Ms. Sharp’s violin had considerable power, juxtaposing the stately and processional cello line.

Lili Boulanger’s “Nocturne and Cortege” followed, a short seven-page work written in 1914 and, given the title, played in a surprisingly festive mood. Violinist Robin Sharp and pianist Lori Lack gave the piece, perhaps the most performed of the Boulanger works, a lilting reading, the violin pitch dead on and the piano line continually supportive.

The first half closed with two intriguing pieces, both wonderfully played. University of Tennessee composer Kenneth Jacobs wrote his Concerto for Viola, “Approaching Northern Darkness,” for Sheila Browne, and here she played just the final movement from the long 47-minute work premiered in 2005. But it was a substantial chunk, titled “Bold Declaration,” and exhibited a pulsating power and rhythmic drive throughout. This is a big movement, and Browne mastered the multiple double stops and eerie top register of her instrument with aplomb, as did pianist Julie Nishimura. The long romantic line was sustained, the lower-register viola segments contrasting with the piano’s syncopated rhythms. Browne has just recorded the entire concerto on a Zyode CD.

Following the Jacobs was daunting, and some frolic was in order, provided exuberantly by violinist Wendy Sharp and pianist Nishimura in Paul Schoenfeld’s “Four Souvenirs.” Schoenfeld’s 12-minute work cobbles together music depicting a samba, tango, Tin Pan Alley tunes and a rollicking square dance. His sensuous tango was especially effective, the tune from “Autumn Leaves” poking out and leading to the jazziest of the set, the fast square dance. Little bursts of sforzandos, played stylishly by Nishimura, were a relief of sorts from the 1920s swing melody of the Tin Pan Alley movement. The music is intricate and was deftly played, the audience seeming charmed.

Following intermission, cellist Irene Sharp, accompanied by Nishmura, played Poulenc’s 1948 Cello Sonata. The opening Allegro tempo di Marcia got off to a rocky start as Sharp had severe pitch problems, particularly in fast passages where she couldn’t find a tonal center, and her portamento was unconvincing and muddy. Things settled down in the calm and lyric Cavatine, played with just the right amount of muted sadness. The pianissimo ending was lovely. A Parisian dance hall mood characterized the Ballabile third movement, the playing finally secure, and leading to the concluding Largo-Presto finale that began with crashing forte chords from the pianist. It’s a sectional movement, pesky to keep together, with some phrases from Sharp sounding at first too tentative and then in sets of repeated chords refined and distinctive. She is an experienced cellist but eschews a virtuoso’s approach.

Virtuoso music closed the program as Santa Clara University pianist Hans Boepple played just the final section, the “Tanatella”, from the Venezia e Napoli supplement to Vol. II of Liszt’s Anées de Pèlerinage. Famous for the technical demands of fast repeated notes and demonic chord passages, the piece frequently appears as an encore at piano recitals but was an odd choice here, given the nature and freshness of the preceding music. Boepple showed good technical command and added many intriguing ritards, allowing discrete voice leadings. Apart from a brief memory lapse and a lack of the last ounce of orchestral brilliance, his playing was effective and drew the evening’s most prolonged applause.

No encores were offered by any of the musicians, appropriate for an event which showcased faculty at the beginning of a rigorous schedule of workshops for youthful musicians.