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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
Parker Quartet / Friday, February 15, 2013
Daniel Chong and David McCarroll, violin;
Jessica Bodner, viola; Kee-Hyun Kim, cello

Parker String Quartet

SOLID GOLD FROM THE PARKER STRING QUARTET

by Steve Osborn
Friday, February 15, 2013

Santa Rosa has been blessed with three superlative chamber music concerts during the past month, beginning with the Calder String Quartet in late January, followed by the Alexander String Quartet with violist Toby Appel in early February, and culminating with the Parker String Quartet one day after Valentine's Day. Choosing among the three ensembles is a difficult task, but I think the gold would ultimately go to the Parker, which proved itself capable of playing even the most difficult music with precision and élan.

Sadly, the Glaser Center in downtown Santa Rosa was only about half full for the Grammy-winning Parkers, but that didn't seem to dampen the musicians' or the audience's enthusiasm. All four members of the quartet, each one more youthful than the other, played as if on fire from the opening note to the last. The opening work, appropriately enough, was from the ever-youthful Mozart, one of his six "Milanese" quartets, written when he was a teenager. This one, K. 156, is in G Major.

The inner voices in the quartet--second violinist David McCarroll and violist Jessica Bodner--instantly established themselves as a force to be reckoned with, playing out their lines in equipoise with their outer brethren: first violinist Daniel Chong and cellist Kee-Hyun Kim. (During the current season, Mr. McCarroll is replacing regular second violinist Karen Kim, who is on sabbatical.) As is often the case with Mozart, the slow movement was the most riveting section, and the Parker played it as if it were one of the composer's mature works, bringing out its exquisite lines and delicate counterpoint.

In brief remarks after the Mozart, Mr. McCarroll said he was glad to be home (he grew up in Sonoma County) and that the just-played quartet and the Dvorak quartet to come in the second half were relatively obscure works. The true center of the program, according to him, was the impending Debussy string quartet, a fixture in the repertoire since its premiere in 1893. The performance that followed demonstrated not only why the Debussy has become canonic, but also how much more this masterpiece still has to offer.

To hear the Parker play the Debussy quartet was nothing short of a revelation. In the first movement all the familiar lines and turns of phrase took on new meaning when played with such precision and understanding. The playing was assured from the opening measures, when opulent legatos gave way to sharply articulated retakes (repeated down-bows). Words such as "flawless," "lapidary" and "impeccable" can only begin to describe the seamless blending, the sudden dynamic changes and the emotive playing, particularly from Mr. Chong.

Ms. Bodner took center stage in the second movement, playing all 13 iterations of her 13-note phrase as if each was a distinct event. In contrast to Mr. Chong's emotive swaying, she held herself aloof, letting her fingers dance across her instrument of their own accord. Her tone was absolutely gorgeous. The movement, marked "lively and rhythmic," seemed to float above the earth like a scudding cloud, with sudden thunder from the cello adding a touch of drama.

The slow third movement continued the gorgeous sound, and here again Mr. Chong captivated the audience as he sang out his expressive lines. When the final movement began, one could only sit back and be entranced by the sparkling musicianship from all four corners of the stage. The ending came all too soon.

Dvorak and Debussy both begin with the same letter, but there the similarity more or less ends. Debussy was a musical revolutionary, but Dvorak was content to use the existing forms and imbue them with his own optimistic style. His eleventh string quartet in C Major, Opus 61, closely resembles his dozen or so other quartets, with an Allegro opening movement, an Adagio second, a minuet-style third and a Vivace conclusion. The melodies are bright and open, and the feeling is often happy and buoyant.

There was absolutely nothing wrong with the Dvorak, but it sounded tame in comparison with the Debussy. Dvorak's technique is more limited, his imagination less captivating. Nonetheless, the performance was exhilarating. Mr. Chong drove forward with breathtaking speed; Mr. McCarroll sang out whenever the opportunity presented; Ms. Bodner reveled in the many viola solos (Dvorak was a violist); and cellist Kim provided a rock-solid foundation throughout. They were as much fun to watch as they were to hear.

At the end, the only regret was that more people weren't there to hear this magnificent group, which had been brought to town through the auspices of the Redwood Arts Council. The Glaser Center is an excellent venue for chamber music, and it's centrally located, with plenty of parking. There's even a friendly lobby with food and drink during intermission. What's not to like?