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Recital
DYNAMIC PIANISM IN YAKUSHEV MARIN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 23, 2022
Russian pianist Ilya Yakushev arrived Jan. 23 at his Mill Valley Chamber Music Society recital with the repute of playing loud and fast and delivering charming introductory musical remarks to his audience. He was true to form in Mill Valley’s Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church, preceding Haydn’s sple
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 REVIEW
Napa Valley Music Associates / Sunday, January 11, 2015
Jassen Todorov, violin; Anna Combs Johnson, soprano; Kenn Gartner and Adrian Borcea, piano

Violinist Jassen Todorov

MOZART IN THE MIX

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 11, 2015

Napa Valley Music Associates 20th annual Mozart concert Jan. 11 was a mostly Mozart event at the Jamieson Ranch Vineyards, but five mostly romantic composers happily joined the musical mix.

Jassen Todorov was the featured violinist in two Sonatas, the F Major (K. 377) and the B Flat (K. 378), partnered with pianist Adrian Borcea. The acoustics of the winery party room were dead and the duo adopted a muscular approach to the overflowing energy of the K. 377 Allegro, the piano at times covering the violin’s sound. The best playing came in the D Minor Variations movement (Andante) where the violinist’s intonation settled down and the music moved from gloomy resignation to lyricism, with a lovely lightweight ending.

The finale was inspired and seemed to quietly vanish into the distance at the end. Throughout the concert the sub professional piano limited artistic playing from Mr. Borcea and subsequently Kenn Gartner, but on balance the Mozart was an adroit if not a telling performance.

Not hindered by the accompanying instrument was soprano Anna Combs Johnson, singing four works by Verdi and Rachmaninoff. From the opera Othello she sang a deliberate and shapely “Ave Maria,” followed by the sad “Salce, salce” (Desdemona’s “Willow’s Song”) with Mr. Gartner support and beguiling postlude. Her voice is even and strong throughout all registers, carrying well with judicious and intense high notes in Rachmaninoff’s “It Is Nice Here.” The popular “Vocalise” (from a group of Op. 34 songs) is performed without words and with one vowel of the singer’s choosing. Here the piano and vocal lines intertwined to fine effect, the music producing a serene blessing on the 75 listeners.

Closing the first half were four disparate piano nocturnes, each well known but each less than refined due to Mr. Gartner’s struggle with the piano. In Chopin’s E Flat Nocturne of Op. 9 he never found a stable tempo and Liszt’s Liebesträume suffered from memory lapses and lack of harmonic sustain. The concluding Scriabin Nocturne for the Left Hand (Op.9) and Respighi’s mellow Notturno were better, the latter a signature piece for the pianist and played with a soothing right-hand staccato and deft phrasing.

In Mozart’s B Flat sonata Mr. Todorov found a lighter bow and relaxed virtuosity that was not always in evidence earlier. He focused on the beguiling three-part melody of the Andantino, reminiscent of the church song “Fairest Lord Jesus, Ruler of All Nature,” and played with a wider vibrato and control of pianissimo. Mr. Borcea had plenty to do with the many right-hand scale passages in the Allegro, attempting to get an even legato from the instrument that seldom provided it.

Two lovely Mozart works closed the concert, “Porgi Amor” from the opera “The Marriage of Figaro,” and a reduction for piano and soprano of the wonderful “Alleluja” from Exultate Jubilate, K. 165. In the prayerful “Figaro” aria Ms. Combs was never strident and allowed the long phrases to unfold naturally. She has a penchant for this vocal drama where (in the opera) Countess Rosina laments fate and love. Quite the opposite was the lofty tessitura of Mozart’s florid three-minute Alleluja, sung with charm and joy.

A standing ovation ensued, a harbinger of the anticipated NV Music Associates “Spring Into Strings”
Concert March 22 in the same hall.