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Chamber
STYLISH HAYDN QUARTETS CLOSE GREEN ROOM SERIES
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, May 9, 2021
Completing the Green Music Center’s spring series series of “Green Room” virtual concerts, the St. Lawrence String Quartet played May 9 a lightweight program of two Haydn works. Lightweight perhaps, but in every way satisfying. The G Major Quartet (Op. 76, No.1) began the music that was supplement...
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...
REVIEW

Pianist John Boyajy and Soprano Bryn Jimenez

SCHUBERT AND EXALTED MOZART IN NOVATO RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 3, 2010

Marin pianist John Boyajy can’t be neutral about any important musical matter. He has passion and the ability to speak extensive words about that passion, and his excitement about Schubert, Bach and Mozart was everywhere in evidence in a duo recital with soprano Bryn Jimenez Jan. 3 in Novato’s All Saints Lutheran Church. Fifty-Five attended on a gloomy and cold day

Beginning with Schubert’s B-Flat Impromptu from Op. 142, Mr. Boyajy set the afternoon’s stage with a reading replete with chaste phrasing and balanced contrasts in the theme, five variations and coda. The non-professional church piano allowed a delicate treble pianissimo in the slow and dignified third variation but had a muddy bass section. Mr. Boyajy underscored the modulation leading to the final variation, his fast scales shimmering. The two chords of the coda were deftly played, the final one oddly broken.

Soprano Bryn Jimenez joined Mr. Boyajy in three Schubert songs to close the first half. Ms. Jimenez has a big and sometimes brash voice, not always suited to the nuance of Schubert lied, but possessing good German diction and ample drama. In “Ganymed” (D. 544) the long sustained notes were floated with care, and the piano’s ending resolution into the major was beautifully crafted. The “Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel” (D. 118) began with requisite rumbling repetitive piano chords, depicting the spinning process, and Ms. Jimenez’s vocal line flew effortlessly in the upper register. Here her lower staff richness became at times monochromatic, especially at high volume, but there was no lack of drama and pathos. The concluding “The Young Nun” (D. 828), a complex work from 1825 projecting an intense spiritual ecstasy, was sung with a beguiling mystery in the low voice and intrinsic histrionics. It was a gripping reading.

Bach’s C Minor Fantasia (S. 906) began the second half, in Mr. Boyajy’s capable hands. It’s a brilliant if short work, with large chromatic modulations. The pianist provided a performance that had aspects of Scarlatti’s sonatas, the turns and mordents directly stated and finger articulation and trills artfully executed.

Mozart’s solo motet “Exsultate Jubilate” (K. 165) closed the program and brought out the best singing of the afternoon. In the opening Allegro Ms. Jimenez chose a narrower vibrato than used in the Schubert songs, and Mr. Boyajy’s accompaniment was continuously forceful. The Larghetto begins with a recitative reminiscent of “The Marriage of Figaro” and was thoughtfully sung, the piano line subtlety played and modulating to the famous “alleluia” finale. Here Mozart asks a lot of the singer, the playful and happy text exploring a wide range of vocal color. Ms. Jimenez left nothing on the table, her powerful voice bringing the audience to its feet.

An encore was demanded and surprisingly Ms. Jimenez deferred to her partner, as Mr. Boyajy played Debussy’s “Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum” from the Children’s Corner Suite. The scales were fast and the legato balanced, perhaps the most virtuosic pianism of the concert.