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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

Cellit Joel Cohen

CAPTIVATING DOHNANYI AND ELGAR IN UKIAH'S DEEP VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 4, 2012

If the nearly 300 people at a Feb. 4 Ukiah concert are an indication, the Deep Valley Chamber Music series has finally arrived. One of the best-kept secrets in North Coast music, Deep Valley has been presenting increasingly challenging repertoire and first-cabin musicians since 2008, and the “Midwinter”concert in First Presbyterian Church was provocative and ultimately satisfying.

Provocative? Chamber music by Dohnanyi (his Serenade for String Trio) and Elgar (his A Minor Piano Quintet) are rarely-played items, and the Brahms Cello Sonata wasn’t one of the usual two, but a transcription for cello of his first Violin Sonata in G. Redwood Valley cellist Joel Cohen and Ukiah pianist Elena Casanova began with the Brahms, always curious because the so familiar and rich-hued themes have to take on the cello’s resonance and the lower (darker) pitch. Recent hearings of the work, by violinist Alexander Barantshik in Santa Rosa (G Major) and cellist Joyce Geeting (D Major), were not offset by the Ukiah performance. Mr. Cohen, oddly playing from score, has a lovely bottom-end sound, favored by the hall’s acoustics, and adopted a brisk and no-nonsense tempo in the vivace. This was not a note-perfect performance and a page-turner’s slip affected more than once the ensemble. Ms. Casanova was an aggressive partner throughout, not bass heavy in the coda but redeeming herself in the final two chords.

The pianist brought out seductive inner voices in the lovely second movement Adagio and here the partnership was excellent, Mr. Cohen’s dynamic control and double stops deftly executed. In the finale the thematic connection with the first movement was explored in a magisterial way, the quiet ending enhanced by an elegant cello grace note in the last bar.

Dohanyi’s music is often allied with Brahms, but in the 1904 Op. 10 Serenade there was none of the German master, but a lot of Dvorak and Magyar influences. Joining Mr. Cohen were violist Roy Malan and violist Elizabeth Prior to craft a riveting and convincing reading of the five-movement work. Ensemble was impeccable throughout, the long line of the viola in the Romanza and pizzicato duet of cello and viola over Mr. Malan’s soaring violin captivating. Often I have heard a sharp edge to Mr. Malan’s tone, especially in the high registers, but the acoustics were warm and direct here and his playing all evening was exemplary. The Scherzo was a presto romp with Mr. Cohen’s cello singing out, the dramatic playing underscored by many false cadences. Inter-movement applause seemed finally appropriate.

The Serenade tends to wander structurally, but in a way musician love (as in Schubert’s “heavenly length”) and in this performance highlighting the composer’s consummate invention. A propulsive Rondo concluded the work, Mr. Malan’s clean scale playing carrying to the back of the hall and ultimately bringing at the final chords the audience to its feet in appreciation.

The long intermission in a long concert featured only Elgar’s Op. 84 Quintet, and in the first movement it’s a very un-Edwardian Elgar. Ms. Casanova returned to the piano, joined by Hayward-based violinist Philip Santos and the string trio, to play a surging first movement. Here the composer lurking was perhaps Franck, and the feeling of a romantic approach of 1880 palpable in a movement from 1918. It’s easy but dangerous to conclude that Elgar’s Quintet grew out of the carnage of the War, but if it’s there at all, it would be in the opening chordal and chromatic Moderato-Allegro. Ms. Casanova pushed the pace and incisively contrasted the opening march and the curious “palm court” waltz sections. Major and minor alternate a lot here and Ms. Prior’s voice leading was exquisite.

A more familiar Elgar, of the Enigma Variations and Violin Concerto, returns in the Adagio which was elegantly played. Mr. Santos and Mr. Malan sounded as one and Mr. Cohen played the piano phrases with great subtlety. In this group’s hands the movement took on a threnody character, the interplay of vocal lines attainting radiance. A triumphant finale, modulating often, was demanding on each performer with sweeping arpeggio patterns that required Ms. Casanova’s most concentrated playing of the evening. The massive final chords, from the low cello and the pianist’s bottom E to the high strings, resounded to loud applause and cheers.

Though each of concert’s musicians performs constantly all over the North Bay area, they seldom have schedules that allow them to perform together, making the virtuosity of the instrumental mix an affecting achievement.