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Chamber
STYLISH HAYDN QUARTETS CLOSE GREEN ROOM SERIES
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, May 9, 2021
Completing the Green Music Center’s spring series series of “Green Room” virtual concerts, the St. Lawrence String Quartet played May 9 a lightweight program of two Haydn works. Lightweight perhaps, but in every way satisfying. The G Major Quartet (Op. 76, No.1) began the music that was supplement...
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 REVIEW
Mastercard Performance Series / Saturday, October 24, 2015
Academy of St. Martin In The Fields Chamber Ensemble

Academy St. Martin In the Fields Chamber Ensemble

EMSEMBLE PERFECTION IN ST. MARTIN ACADEMY WEILL CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 24, 2015

With the social and musical glamour surrounding the recent Lang Lang and Joshua Bell recitals in Weill, the Academy of St. Martin in the Field’s eight-musician chamber ensemble's Oct. 24 concert came as a calming musical breeze.

Known to lovers of fine orchestral playing through their scores of recordings, the Academy from London made their local debut with three works that spotlighted refinement and taste rather than high drama. What better way to begin a showcase of distinctive string playing that Rossini’s Sonata in sunny G Major? I have heard the work, purported to have been written at age 12, performed with forces larger than the quartet heard here. But it worked splendidly, the tempos throughout not fast and the lean sound convincing. In the Andantino the final three chords from four instruments were delicately in sync.

The lively concluding Allegro was deftly played with the low sonorities from double bass player Linda Houghton and cellist Stephen Orton carrying well in Weill.

Another small ensemble, this time a quintet playing Mozart’s E-Flat Major work for horn and strings (K. 407), closed the short first half. There is a lot of elegant soft playing in the 1784 work, but with contrasting and often dominating horn playing from Stephen Stirling. The first movement and much of the additional two are almost a concerto for horn, with standout playing of melodious sweetness in the Andante by solo violinist Tomo Keller and duo violists Robert Smissen and Harvey De Souza. The bell of the horn faced to the gallery at the back of the stage but the adroit Mozart sound wasn’t adversely affected.

The finale featured assertive phrasing with horn and violin in dance character, with impeccable phrasing and ensemble.

A short first half turned after intermission to a long but heavenly Schubert Octet (D. 803). The sonic addition of clarinetist Timothy Orpen was welcome after so much luxuriant string playing, and the six movements unfolded with inexorable care and chaste voicing. The unison playing throughout was exemplary and Mr. Keller and De Souza were ever energetic, with the former exhibiting a coiled and then uncoiled ballet with his body and bow.

In the Adagio the clarinet’s lovely opening theme passed over to the violin, and in a duo soared in a Mozartian manner, supported by the horn and bassoon. In this movement there was a richly striking double bass solo over pizzicatos in the higher strings. Perfection.

Much of the Octet has small dance sections with often “question and answer” refrains (the scherzo-like movement 3 and the Andante variations) and the Academy seemingly caught every nuance. Some Octet themes appear initially banal but the composer develops them with mastery, and the performer’s artistry produced a consummate whole. The slight menace of the Menuetto and the controlled power of the finale (Andante Molto), a happy march, were compelling Schubert playing. Polished playing abounded, even in the difficult and constant changes in volume and rhythm.

The sensuous and noble performance produced the only standing ovation of the evening from the surprisingly large audience of 800. Why surprising? With no star soloists or blockbuster repertoire the Academy was able to draw a big house solely from it sterling reputation and enchanting playing.