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Symphony
THE SHOW MUST GO ON
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 9, 2022
The Jan. 9 Santa Rosa Symphony concert was supposed to feature the world premiere of Gabriella Smith’s first symphony, but it ended up featuring another type of premiere: a concert that was conceived, rehearsed and performed in less than eight hours. Symphony staff learned on Sunday morning that so
Choral and Vocal
AN OLD FRIEND RETURNS TO WEILL IN STERLING ABS MESSIAH PERFORMANCE
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Sunday, December 19, 2021
A tremendous accomplishment by the American Bach Soloists Dec. 19 was near perfect performance of Handel's Messiah in Weill Hall. Long an annual tradition at San Francisco's Grace Cathedral, the ABS took to the road and delivered a Christmas gift of epic proportions to an obviously thrilled and enth
Symphony
SHOSTAKOVICH FIFTH THUNDERS AT WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 5, 2021
In a new season marketed as “Classical Reunion,” the Santa Rosa Symphony made a palpable connection with its audience at the early December set of three standing ovation concerts in Weill Hall. The December 5 concert, with 1,000 attending, is reviewed here. Vaughan Williams’ popular Fantasia on a T
Chamber
THE LINCOLN RETURNS WITH CLARKE'S PUNGENT TRIO
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, November 18, 2021
There were many familiar faces Nov. 18 during Music at Oakmont’s initial concert of the season, but perhaps the most necessary were the three musicians of the Lincoln Piano Trio, the Chicago-based group that has performed often in Oakmont since 2006. A smaller than unusual audience in Berger Audito
Symphony
NOSTALGIC BARBER KNOXVILLE AT SO CO PHIL JACKSON THEATER CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 14, 2021
In their first Jackson Theater appearance of the new season the Sonoma County Philharmonic presented Nov. 14 a program devoid of novelty, but showcasing the “People’s Orchestra” in splendid performance condition after a long COVID-related layoff. Conductor Norman Gamboa drew a committed and boister
Chamber
THRILLING PIANO QUINTETS IN MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 14, 2021
The Mill Valley Chamber Music Society sprang back to life on November 14 when a stellar ensemble from the Manhattan Chamber Players, a New York-based collective, arrived to perform two piano quintets: Vaughn-Williams’ in C Minor (1903), little known and rarely performed; and Schubert’s in A Major D.
Chamber
MUSCULAR BRAHMS FROM IVES COLLECTIVE IN GLASER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 14, 2021
Leaving SRJC’s Newman Auditorium for the first time in decades, the College’s Chamber Concert Series presented a season-opening concert Nov. 14 in Santa Rosa’s Glaser Center with the four-musician Bay-Area based Ives Collective. The season, the first given since 2020, is dedicated to Series Founder
Symphony
MONUMENTAL BRAHMS SYMPHONY HIGHLIGHTS MARIN SYMPHONY RETURN
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 7, 2021
In the waning COVID pandemic the Marin Symphony is one of the last Bay Area orchestras to return to the stage, and they did with considerable fanfare Nov. 7 before 1,200 in Civic Center Auditorium, with resident conductor Alasdair Neale leading a demanding concert of Brahms, Schumann and New York-ba
Symphony
APOLLO'S FIRE LIGHTS UP VIVALDI'S FOUR SEASONS IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 30, 2021
Long ago the Canadian violin virtuoso Gil Shaham played a program in Weill Hall of solo Bach, with a visual backdrop of slowly developing visuals, such as a pokey flower opening over four minutes. The Bach was sensational, and some in the audience liked the photos but many found them disconcerting,
Chamber
SPARKLING WIND, STRING, HARP MUSIC AT DEVON HOUSE GARDEN CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, October 9, 2021
Take a mild autumn evening, a garden gazebo with patterned rugs and lit with soft bulbs, shake in a fine chamber ensemble, add a rising new moon, and you have a recipe for the musical delight that violist Elizabeth Prior presented Oct. 9 in her Devon House Garden Concert series. The Marin Terra Li
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.