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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....
RECITAL REVIEW
Diane Maltester and Friends / Sunday, November 9, 2014
Diane Maltester

LaDene Otsuki and Diane Maltester Nov. 9 in Vallejo

CHAMBER MUSIC MASTERY IN VALLEJO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA CONCERT

by Elizabeth Warnimont
Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Vallejo Symphony Orchestra presented the first small group performance of its 2014-2015 season Nov. 9 in the casual setting of Vallejo’s First Presbyterian Church. Clarinetist Diane Maltester wowed the audience with stunning performances of pieces by well-known and rarely heard composers.

“Diane and Friends,” the title of the concert, featured Ms. Maltester with pianist LaDene Otsuki and cellist Dawn Foster-Dodson. Beethoven’s B Flat Trio, Op. 11, was the opening work and Ms. Maltester’s instrument sang beautifully throughout. The Trio opens with an allegro movement in which cello and clarinet must speed through sprightly runs in sync with each other, while the piano contributes the soothing element of even, rhythmic accompaniment. The mood of the piece is lighthearted despite the virtuosic requirements it places on the musicians. Its succession of happy passages reminded me of a Buster Keaton silent film, lively and playful with few quiet interludes.

The second movement is Adagio, slowing things down enough for the composer to convey deeper emotions and allowing a more contemplative tone from both the wind and string instruments. Ms. Maltester's sensitive and masterful playing was all the more remarkable juxtaposed in these two contrasting movements.

The finale is a continuum of nine variations on the theme “Pria ch'io l'impegno” (Before I go to Work). The trio in its entirety is often referred to as the Gassenhauer, or “Street Song”, referring to the theme in this third movement that was commonly played by street musicians in Beethoven's time. Ms. Foster-Dodson’s sonorous cello was clearly heard in this part that included high-speed synchronized runs and expressive solo segments.

Weber’s brilliant Grand Duo Concertant, Opus 48, a showpiece for piano and clarinet, was a technical challenge for the performers, and Ms. Maltester played the emotional passages in the clarinet’s lowest register with a beautiful tone and apparent ease. The Duo also demands piano virtuosity and Ms. Otsuki’s playing kept pace with the sometimes lightning-fast runs.

The second movement is notably mournful at the onset, transitioning to more thoughtful passages before becoming more excited and hopeful at its height. The movement culminates in a somber and pessimistic tone, contrasting with the concluding Rondo movement in which piano and clarinet both sing happy tunes of revelry. As if to emphasize its happy ending, the piece concludes on a decisive final note, a tonal declaration of victory.

After a brief intermission, works by Bernstein and Muczynski were heard. The Bernstein's neoclassical Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, from 1943, has a modern feel with unusual and complex chord changes, rhythms and tonalities. The beginning Grazioso movement opens with tremendous discord, a sound of dizzying confusion and volume. Some bright melodic lines appear briefly, only to sink back into the mire of complex sound. The movement then transitions into music more palatable to most concertgoers. The following Andantino movement is dance-like in its relative grace and simplicity. The music is flirtatious and uncluttered, evocative of a contemporary dance performance. Passages of serene solitude interlace with more upbeat, celebratory strains. It was easy to hear the tenderness of sound from both the clarinet and the piano, especially in the upper registers. Ms. Otsuki’s playing was more aggressive here, exuding unfettered joy in the dancing piano passages.

The pianist’s playing was most persuasive in the Muczynski’s Op. 26 Fantasy Trio, beginning with the Allegro Energico. The composition shares the modern tone of the Bernstein piece but without the overly complex rhythms and dissonance. Ms. Otsuki's played beautifully expressive phrases in the sweet melodic segments, and the cello line also had a strong, pulsating ground beat and bright, violin-like melodies.

In the Andante movement the interactive melody and harmony that develops between cello and clarinet was striking, as if the two disparate sounds originated from one unified source. It was a sound of ethereal and pure beauty. In the finale (Allegro) Ms. Foster-Dodson played many dramatic runs and sharp staccato bursts. Themes from the earlier parts of the piece culminated here in a gala of sound. The higher-register melodies allowed Ms. Maltester to demonstrate another aspect of her mastery as she elicited flute-like sounds from her instrument.

As in the Weber Concertant, the Trio ends decisively with a clever play of changing meters and had an upbeat and celebratory character.

“Diane and Friends” was the final performance of the calendar year for the Vallejo Symphony, and the season continues with “Concert for the Animals” on January 25 in Vallejo’s Hogan Auditorium. The soloists will be pianists Eric Tran and Nathan Cheung with narrator Corey Fischer. David Ramadanoff is the conductor.

This review first appeared in the Benicia Herald.