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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
Russian River Chamber Music / Friday, September 5, 2008
Rossetti String Quartet

Rossetti String Quartet

WHO'S ON FIRST?

by Steve Osborn
Saturday, September 6, 2008

Inspiration is hard to come by. Abundant proof of that truism was in evidence at the Rossetti String Quartet performance in Healdsburg on Sept. 5, as part of the Russian River Chamber Music (RRCM) series. This talented and accomplished foursome—one of hundreds of such groups currently performing—showed occasional flashes of brilliance but mostly settled for the ordinary.

String quartets are flourishing these days. There are more than a dozen professional quartets in California alone, including not only the Rossetti, but also the St. Lawrence, the Cypress, the Ives and the Alexander—all of whom will be playing in RRCM’s “Made in California” series this season.
With that sort of competition, it’s hard to stand out. Some quartets try to make themselves distinctive through their dress, their stage presence or their repertoire. But what matters most, of course, is their playing.

The Rossetti offered a little bit of all the above, embodied in their burly violist, Thomas Diener. He wore a black shirt with intricate white embroidery culminating in monogrammed cuffs. The fourth finger of his bow hand was beset with an enormous ring that occasionally glinted in the stage lights. He sat straight up in his chair, occupying most of the middle of the quartet, increasing his presence on occasion by rising up out of his seat or leaning over to gaze at his neighboring cellist or second violinist.

As to the repertoire, it ranged only from the standard (Mozart and Beethoven) to the tamely modern (Bernard Hermann and Astor Piazzola). Within these somewhat narrow confines, great playing has to carry the day.

That appeared to be the case with the opening Mozart, K. 387, the first of the six quartets dedicated to Haydn. The musicians began by looking at each other, and they continued to do so throughout the quartet, exchanging glances and flashing smiles, many of them directed at violinist Tereza Stanislav, the only female in the group.

This interaction was reflected in the playing, with precise attention to individual lines, well-executed crescendos, and adroit phrasing. Henry Gronnier, playing first violin, had a bright sound that led the way. His shifting, however, was often too abrupt, impeding his fluidity. Stanislav, at second, exhibited a warm tone, and cellist Eric Gaenslen provided a rock-solid lower voice. One of the high points came in the second movement, when Gaenslen sustained a single note, aided and abetted by the violist, Diener, who leaned closer and closer as the note increased in volume and effect.

K. 387 is filled with extremes of emotion, from the bright opening movement, to the graceful Menuetto of the second, to the profound depths of the Andante cantabile third—all capped by the utter joyousness of the final Molto allegro. The Rossetti proved sympathetic to Mozart’s emotional states, and the resulting performance offered a glimpse of this beloved composer’s true genius.

After this promising beginning, violinists Gronnier and Stanislav switched chairs to play “Echoes” by Bernard Herrmann, the 20th-century American composer best known for his Alfred Hitchcock film scores. The main echo seemed to be of Herrmann’s movie work: “Echoes” sounded for all the world like background music to a suspenseful romance.

The affair began with simple two-note phrases, either ascending or descending. The phrases gradually evolved into triplets and then into an ostinato (repeated) figure, a classic tension-builder for thrillers. The work progressed in this fashion at a leisurely pace, not so much from movement to movement as from scene to scene. We got the moonlit evening on the beach, the meaningful pizzicato footsteps and finally the ponticello (playing near the bridge) tremolo, suggestive of pending denouement.

In contrast to the Mozart, the Rossetti kept pretty much to themselves during “Echoes,” their eyes fixed on their scores. The lack of interaction may have been caused by the switch in violinists, or perhaps by their unfamiliarity with the work. In any event, the performance suffered, making “Echoes” sound even more formulaic than it already was.

Stanislav continued as first violinist in the Beethoven Op. 18, No. 3, which opened the second half. She is an accomplished violinist with fluid fingering and elegant bowing, but she sits so erect and immobile in her chair that she looks like a statue with moving arms. Her playing is flawless but austere, and her eyes are riveted on the score. The net result of all these characteristics is a lack of emotional intensity and interaction with her fellow players.

All the notes of the Beethoven were there, but the performance never really took off, except for a brief flash of brilliance in the closing Presto.

Matters improved somewhat when Gronnier returned to first violin for Piazzola’s “Tango Ballet.” What he lacks in finesse he makes up for in feeling. Parts of the tango really began to swing, and the players started eyeing their partners once again.

The final swoosh of a tango would have made a good ending to the concert, but the Rossetti elected to play an encore: a slow movement from one of Charles Gounod’s nearly forgotten string quartets. The immobile Stanislav was again on first violin, but the French composer’s operatic melodies seemed to suit her better than the Beethoven. She even began to sway.

In the end, the game of musical chairs in the violin section seemed to sum up the Rossetti’s difficulties. They have the talent, but they haven’t yet figured out how to make a consistently inspiring sound.