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SIX GUITARISTS IN UNIQUE NAPA RECITAL
by Gary Digman
Sunday, July 25, 2021
The first Napa Valley Guitar Festival was held at Napa’s First Presbyterian Church July 25, and featured performances from six classical guitarists. The Church is an iconic structure in downtown Napa, its huge white presence dominating the scene, and the white theme continues inside punctuated by be
Chamber
CLARA SCHUMANN TRIO COMMANDS VOM CHAMBER MUSIC CONCERT AT HANNA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 24, 2021
The Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Series has begun several virtual and a few live concerts in its new seventh season, some broadcast from Sonoma’s Hanna Center Hall and some in posh local venues. July 24’s video had a small live audience and a well-produced video program of three works. Titled “
Chamber
EXEMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MENDO FESTIVAL FT. BRAGG CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Faced with the impossibility of presenting concerts in the iconic large white tent on the bluff, the Mendocino Music Festival opted to use Ft. Bragg’s Cotton Auditorium for ten events in the abbreviated 35th season. San Francisco’s Alexander String Quartet played July 21 to a fully masked audience
Chamber
ECLECTIC PROGRAMMING AT PIANOSONOMA CONCERT IN SCHROEDER HALL
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Tuesday, July 20, 2021
After a dark year bereft of live performance, pianoSonoma launched July 20 the first Vino & Vibrato concert of the 2021 season in Sonoma State's Schroeder Hall, albeit sadly senza vino due to Covid protocols. Three exceptional musicians showered the audience with an interesting variety of pia
Chamber
RARELY-PLAYED SCHUMANN HIGHLIGHTS HEALDSBURG RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 10, 2021
Brave New Music sporadically produces concerts in and around Healdsburg, and July 10’s violin recital in downtown St. Paul’s Church must have been one of the first post-lockdown, post-be-extra-careful classical music concerts in Sonoma County's summer season. New Music Founder Gary McLaughlin with
Chamber
ECHOS ON A WARM SUMMER NIGHT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, July 10, 2021
ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s first concert in a year and a half, “A Musical Promenade,” was a promenade indeed. When patrons arrived at San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for the 6:00 performance July 10, they were funneled through the garden to the Duncan Hall patio, where folding chairs were set
Chamber
LONG DISTANCE LOVE BEGINS VOM SUMMER FESTIVAL
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Thursday, June 24, 2021
The Valley of the Moon Music Festival offered a 7th season preview June 24 with a stunning online concert, aptly named Long Distance Love, featuring inspired performances of Beethoven's short song cycle An die ferne Geliebte,, and selections from Brahms’ beloved Liebeslieder Wal
Recital
ROMERO'S ARTISTRY IN SLV RECITAL PROGRAMMING AND PERFORMANCE
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 2, 2021
Gustavo Romero has been an admired visitor to North Bay stages, playing over a decade recitals at Dominican University, the Music at Oakmont concerts and at the Spring Lake Village Concert Series. He returned June 2 to SLV in a virtual recital, videoed from his home concert hall the University of N
RUBICON'S VIRTUAL CONCERT A MALANGE OF CONTRASTS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, May 16, 2021
The inaugural concert of a new Mendocino County chamber group is a reason for celebration, and the Rubicon Trio made the most of a mixed musical menu during a May16 virtual concert. Presented by the Ukiah Symphony Orchestra as the last in their “Salons with the Symphony” Series, the Rubicon began w
Recital
PIANO VIRTUOSITY IN YAKUSHEV'S REDWOOD ARTS RECITAL
by Nicki Bell
Sunday, May 16, 2021
Russian pianist Ilya Yakushev’s recital for the Redwood Arts Council was perhaps the local season’s virtual music at the greatest distance, as the filming May 16 came from a church in St. Petersburg. And good filming it was, with multiple camera viewpoints of the church, full and split screens and
RECITAL REVIEW
Sonoma Classical Music Society / Sunday, February 9, 2014
Alexander String Quartet

Alexander String Quartet

IMPECCABLE BEETHOVEN FROM THE ALEXANDER STRING QUARTET

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 9, 2014

In the classical music world, snazzy innovation and music puffery catch the headlines, but there is always a role for an instrumental group with long experience and impeccable artistic integrity. The Alexander String Quartet's Feb. 9 concert in the Sonoma Classical Chamber Music Series proved that decades of performance excellence could make an all-Beethoven program seem as familiar and cozy as an old house slipper.

Before a packed Vintage House audience, the Alexander opened with the 1798 C Minor Quartet, Op. 18, No. 4, and gave a svelte and polished reading throughout. There was a uniform blending of sound, with the high-ceiling room favoring cellist Sandy Wilson's cello sound and a desired reverberation time of just under one-half a second. In the second movement (Andante Scherzoso) first violinist Zakarias Grafilo played often with a spiccato bow, and the ensemble was perfection. The dark drama of the Menuetto was played to highlight the piquant harmonies, and the finale was a whirling dance, the Quartet alternating the major and minor keys to a "gypsy" effect. The pizzicato playing was exemplary.

Beethoven's last completed Quartet, Op. 135, closed the first half. Playing in the first movement was insistent but never forceful, the long ascending phrases not melodic but strongly rhythmic. In the tranquil Lento, a peaceful aura was created, the top violin and bottom cello lines surrounding the floating inner voices. Time seem to stop at the end. Though the sharp opening of the finale with themes played in unison was dramatic, the piece's cohesion was palpable. It was a magical performance.

Beethoven's middle-period E Minor Quartet (Op. 59, No. 2) closed the afternoon in a faultless performance where subtle volume changes appeared in each of the four movements. This deftly proportioned playing was never rushed and emphasized long, singing lines. Mr. Grafilo played a section in the Adagio where soft ascending and descending notes were perfectly graded, and Mr. Wilson ended the movement with a long downward phrase of delicacy and finality.

The Presto finale had a wonderful interplay of contrapuntal voices, often beginning with the second violin, and then to violist Paul Yarbrough and the cello and first violin. It was often fast and tenacious playing, jolly and then pushy, with virtuoso work from Mr. Grafilo.

As the West Coast's premier string quartet, the Alexander has appeared in seven of the Sonoma Society's ten seasons, and clearly artistic experience pays rich dividends.