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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...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Tiburon Music Festival / Saturday, June 28, 2008
Three for Piano & Strings

AN ORCHESTRAL SEXTET

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, June 28, 2008

On paper, the closing concert of the Tiburon Music Festival June 28 seemed a chancy venture. Two well-known piano concertos were to be performed with a soloist and an orchestra of just five string players. No winds, brass or percussion, no weight in the sections to produce mighty sound to honor the mighty Haydn and Beethoven.

The musical results? Impressive, convincing in their own way, but giving no great desire to displace the originals.

The final event of seven-concert Festival, all at St. Hilary Church, attracted 200 people, many curious to hear how Beethoven’s magisterial G Major Concerto, Op. 58, would unfold with minimal forces. Festival Director Paul Smith conducted from the piano with sparse hand gestures and head movements replacing a conductor’s baton. The simple opening statement from the piano set a dignified reference point and a slow tempo, both continuing until the sublime Andante con Moto. String pitch problems quickly settled down, and the low cello and bass frequencies were strong enough to cover the two violins and viola. The bright church acoustics favor these frequencies, and added much to the volume of bowed-string sound. Paul Rhodes played an elegant and sonorous cello line throughout, and had short but lush duos with Mr. Smith. The piano plays with the strings in places not heard in the original c. 1806 Concerto, and the cadenza was not wholly Beethoven, or even the Reinecke, which was once popular. It’s slightly jarring, but not at all irritating, to hear such a masterwork played this way. Mr. Smith’s trills, expressive and often very fast, were telling all evening.

The second movement was inspiring, each instrument carefully balancing the somber nature of the music, and the opening of the concluding Rondo-Vivace was a call to arms. Here the usual heft in the strings was missed, but the group’s focus was the interplay of question and answer, cello to piano, piano to Pamela Carey’s lead violin, sforzandos snapping. The shortened cadenza was mostly Beethoven, but perhaps something of Mr. Smith also? The ending had authority, and generated a standing ovation.

In the first half, the ensemble played Aulis Sallinen’s 1997 Introduction and Tango Overture, a less-than-ten minute exploration of powerful rhythmic possibilities. The introduction was somber, strident dissonances relaxing into atmospheric chorales. The Tango finally came, but it was far from the tango of the Argentinean bandoneon. The insistent rhythms here were performed for dramatic rather than seductive effect, and the unexpected ending was pungent. Wonderful stuff for a piano sextet, and there isn’t too much heard for this combination, past the Chausson Concerto, Op. 21, and the Mendelssohn Sextet. I vote for the Chausson next year.

Preceding the Sallinen and providing sharp contrast for the Beethoven was Haydn’s D Major Concerto, here again with the resident Sextet. Mr. Smith spoke to the audience about the provenance of the score reductions, and that transparent textures are mandatory. Playing frequently with the shift pedal, Mr. Smith led a taut performance, pushing the pace that often just had the strings arriving together at phrase endings. There is much Mozart in the Un Poco Adagio, with the upward progressions equally shared, and a short keyboard trill leading to the final Rondo. Here the many modulations brought variety to the music, the fast scales from the piano occasionally indistinct but always well integrated with the strings. Haydn’s most popular piano concerto, from about 1781, was gracefully served.

One would be remiss by not mentioning details which made the initial Tiburon Festival an event of substance – many works of Marin composers, performers from the SF Bay area, signature posters and wine labels, a sparkling facility and generous supplies of excellent gratis hors d’oeuvres. It was exotic to encounter oysters as intermission fare. I hope these happy traditions continue in next June’s Festival.