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Opera
VERDI'S THEATRICAL LA TRAVIATA TRIUMPHS AT CINNABAR
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, June 19, 2022
Symphony
MARIACHI MEETS ORCHESTRA AT THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, June 12, 2022
Choral and Vocal
RARE MOZART COUPLING COMPLETES SONOMA BACH'S SEASON IN SCHROEDER
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, May 28, 2022
EXOTIC RUSSIAN MUSIC FEATURED IN MV PHIL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Thursday, May 19, 2022
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PREMIERES DAUGHERTY SKETCHES OF SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 8, 2022
Chamber
BRAHMS-ERA TRIOS HIGHLIGHT OAKMONT CHAMBER CONCERT
by Nicholas Xelenis
Thursday, May 5, 2022
Chamber
CHAMBER GEMS OF BRAHMS IN TRIO NAVARRO'S SCHROEDER CONCERT
by Judy Walker
Sunday, May 1, 2022
Recital
UNIQUE ELEGANCE IN GALBRAITH GUITAR RECITAL
by Gary Digman
Friday, April 29, 2022
Symphony
VSO'S ELEGANT PASTORAL SYMPHONY SHINES IN EMPRESS RETURN
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 24, 2022
Choral and Vocal
A SPIRITUAL FAURE REQUIEM IN GOOD FRIDAY CANTIAMO CONCERT
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Friday, April 15, 2022
CHAMBER REVIEW

TRUMPETS SOUND AT ST. STEPHEN'S

by Joanna Bramel Young
Friday, May 16, 2008

The American Bach Soloists rounded out their 19th season on May 16 with 'Sound the Trumpet,' a concert of baroque music featuring the natural trumpet. The natural trumpet is a horrendously difficult instrument to play, and it took a generation of modern players to tame its idiosyncrasies. I remember attending concerts of early music years ago where the trumpet player was never quite able to play perfectly in tune, or command the required technique. Today this has changed, with the emergence in the past 15 years of John Thiessen, trumpet player extraordinaire. John has been wowing audiences all over the United States and Canada with his impeccable brilliance and authority.

The natural trumpet is about four feet long. The player has four little holes which he fingers with his right hand, holding the instrument with his left. All the notes he plays are created by his embouchure and his right hand. With this apparently 'simple' instrument, trumpeter Thiessen is a virtuoso--making it play perfectly in tune, and in perfect balance with an orchestra.

The American Bach Soloists program, presented in Belvedere's St. Stephen's Church, opened with a concerto by Torelli, followed by works by Telemann, Fasch, J.S. Bach, and Handel. A small string orchestra, with added flute, oboes, bassoon and harpsichord (all authentic reproductions of 18th-century instruments) was beautifully conducted by Jeffrey Thomas, who co-founded the orchestra.

During the Renaissance, the trumpet was used only at military and ceremonial occasions. The nobility guarded its use, and only the official court trumpeters were allowed to play it. Then, during the 18th century, composers such as Torelli wrote works that featured the noble, fanfare quality natural to the trumpet. In the Fasch concerto, the trumpet was joined by two oboes, and the melodies were tossed back and forth among the winds.

Telemann's programmatic Water Music--where instruments imitate frogs, water, and sleeping people--are among his most persuasive. Recorders, oboes and flute enhanced the charming images to great effect. The ensemble also played Bach's Sixth Brandenburg Concerto, which gives the violas, cellos and viola da gambas the chance to show off their rich lower tones. There are no violins in this piece, and it was unusual for Bach to combine two viola da gambas with violas and cellos, as the viols were going out of favor by the time Bach was composing.

In sum, the concert contained a rich variety of sound, never allowing the audience to become tired of the less-than-modern tonal tapestry.

Beginning this summer, the American Bach Soloists present 'Summer Fest 2008,' a series of three concerts on three consecutive days, July 11-13, at St. Stephens. The first is 'Baroque Gems,' the second 'Classical Classics,' and the third is 'The Romantics.' This series should give the listener who is unfamiliar with music played on the instruments of the period a chance to hear how far the early-instrument world has come in the past 50 years. The acoustically fine St. Stephen's is worth the drive from Sonoma County.