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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
MasterCard Performance Series / Sunday, October 27, 2013
Takác String Quartet: Edward Dusinberre and Károly Schranz,violin; Geraldine Walther,viola; András Fejér,cello. Erika Eckert, viola and Scott Pingel, bass

Takács String Quartet

FROM HUNGARY WITH LOVE

by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 27, 2013

The United States is blessed to have dozens of great string quartets in residence, from the upstart Parker, to the mid-career Emerson, to the venerable Guarneri. Few if any of the greats, however, can surpass the Takács String Quartet, which emigrated to the United States from Hungary in 1983 and has been dazzling American audiences ever since.

Currently in residence at the University of Colorado, the quartet has been playing regularly at Cal Performances for many years, and now they have added the Green Music Center in Rohnert Park to their list of stops. Given their performance at the GMC's Weill Hall on Oct. 27, one can only hope they'll return as soon as possible. They were magnificent.

The sight that greeted the audience from the Weill Hall stage was a bit unusual: five chairs instead of the usual four, and a pair of microphones in the middle. The chairs were easily explained, since the Takács was playing quintets, but the microphones remained a mystery until intermission, when one of the GMC's artistic directors explained that they were for people with assisted listening devices, not for amplification.

If ever a group didn't need amplification, it's the Takács. All their players, plus their quintet guests, projected a warm, confident sound, easily filling Weill Hall with sonic glory. The GMC had wisely decided to restrict ticket sales to the ground floor, which was nearly full, and the sound bloomed unobstructed overhead.

Leading the pack was cellist András Fejér, a curly haired benevolent gnome who seemed to meld with his instrument and to center the group. His tone was deep, rich and gorgeous, an unburied treasure for all to hear. His Hungarian compatriot on second violin, Károly Schranz, featured a mop of white hair and a playing style that bordered on the frenetic, constantly bobbing back and forth in time with the music.

Fejér and Schranz are the sole remaining members of the original quartet, founded in 1975. In recent years they have been joined by the restrained but impeccable British violinist Edward Dusinberre and local favorite Geraldine Walther, the former principal violist of the San Francisco Symphony. The changes have been seamless, and all four play together as if they'd been practicing for decades.

Not only was the Takács glorious, but their program was one of a kind: two rarely heard Dvorák quintets, one with an added bass and one with an extra viola. Coming from opposite ends of Dvorák's long career, the quintets display his evolution as a composer, moving from classic European forms to an open American sound.

The bass quintet is one of Dvorák's earliest works, arriving just after his meteoric rise to fame on the strength of his "Slavonic Dances." The work is classic in many respects, from the motivic development of the first movement, to the dance figures of the second, to the rollicking rondo of the finale. It's hard to understand why Dvorák added the bass, which mostly just doubles the cello line; but it does provide some added heft and distinction--How many bass quintets can you name?

Throughout the performance, the Takács and bassist Scott Pingel moved freely but in perfect unison. Dvorák really knows how to hand off melodies, and certain themes moved around the quintet like electric current, flowing from one set of fingers to the next. Of the many transcendent moments, the cello solos in the luscious Andante were the most memorable.

After intermission, the focus shifted to the violas, which doubled in strength thanks to the addition of Erika Eckert, one of the Takács's fellow faculty at the University of Colorado. She opened the unfamiliar "American" quintet (not to be confused with the ubiquitous "American" quartet composed around the same time) with a lovely solo, virtually announcing that the work would dwell on the middle instruments.

Like its famous cousin, the "American" quintet is heavily influenced by Dvorák's famous sojourn in the United States. The first movement is replete with American folk tunes, the second sounds like a barn dance, the third like a church service on the High Plains, and the last like an ebullient outpouring of New World optimism.

Even though she didn't get the opening solo, Geraldine Walther was the absolute star of the quintet, with her soaring tone and compelling lines resonating throughout all four movements. Her solo in the second, with its distinctive quintuplet rhythms, was particularly gripping; while that of the third settled into a luxuriant hymn. Not to be outdone, her plucking duet with Eckert in the finale was a model of rhythmic intensity.

The ovation was long and sustained, but sadly there was no encore--unless the GMC brings them back.