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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....
CHAMBER REVIEW
Music at Oakmont / Thursday, December 10, 2015
Frank Almond, violin; William Wolfram, piano

Violinist Frank Almond

BRAWNEY ARTISTRY IN ALMOND-WOLFRAM MUSIC AT OAKMONT RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, December 10, 2015

Scintillating string playing has always been a feature of the Music at Oakmont concerts, but Dec. 10’s recital by violinist Frank Almond and pianist William Wolfram was exceptionally virtuosic and musically convincing.

The cornerstone of the performance came in the second half with a brawny reading of a titular work in the violin repertoire, Beethoven’s dramatic A Major Sonata, Op. 47 (Kreutzer). Playing without score, as he did the entire recital, Mr. Almond managed the fast tempo broken thirds and sixths in the opening Adagio – Presto with aplomb, and surmounted the technical hurdles in the graceful slow movement of trills and lyrical lightness. The piece’s famous first measures before the pianist enters, where there is string movement from the second to third chord (both in thirds), and then thee pianist with broken sixth chords, were deftly played. It’s not easy to do.

In the Andante there was some note blurring in quick passages but the violinist’s playing was always clear, with alternating seconds, at the top of the instrument’s register. Mr. Wolfram had an amazing trill technique here, even and easily swelling from piano to forte. The finale was “off to the races” in tempo, making the most of the composer’s dazzling inventiveness and mastery.

Over 45 minutes, this “Kreutzer” with all the repeats was held beautifully together by the duo and was a potent musical achievement.

In older days violin recitals frequently began with a middle drawer baroque piece, sometimes Tartini’s Devil’s Trill or Didone Abbandonata, or the Vitali Chaconne, or some Geminiani. Mr. Almond performed the Tartini G Minor “Devil’s Trill,” a 14-minute work with a mostly continuo part for the piano. I think the Kreisler cadenza was selected, and the performance was at turns virtuosic and even splashy with pithy small slides and sometimes comely phrasing.

Before intermission two disparate pieces were played, one arguably the greatest single work for the solo violin, and the other a late romantic sonata by an unknown Swedish composer, Amanda Röntgen-Maier. From the late 1880s, the Sonata in B Minor has hints of Rubinstein, Grieg and especially Schumann, but easily stands on its own. Mr. Almond underscored a slow wistfulness in the Andantino – Allegrettoand his use of pizzicato moving into the coda with a delicate soft bow was captivating. Grieg’s music, especially the great C Minor Sonata, seems to influence the finale, and Mr. Wolfram gave its surging passion powerful pianism. The violinist was less persuasive in the last forceful bars that needed a more soaring violin line. In sum, a very good reading of an attractive Sonata that needs more concert exposure.

Mr. Almond then played the justly iconic Bach Chaconne (from the D minor Partita, BWV 1004), and it seemed too easy to compare his performance with Gil Shaham’s March transversal of all the solo Bach Sonatas and Partitas in nearby Weill Hall. Easy because Mr. Shaham was consistently fast with tempos, and Mr. Almond was uniformly fast in phrasing. Perhaps it was simply the artist’s mood on a rainy Thursday and the compressed succinct scales and agogics were certainly convincing in their way. But this great music can profit with taking a little more time before transitions in the variations, and adopting more elasticity in note values.

Mr. Almond was a witty and informative speaker to the 200 in Berger Auditorium, describing each work and charmingly referring to Robert Hayden, Music at Oakmont’s founder and the star of a birthday reception following in the hall after the recital. The artist also spoke of the relationship of his Stradivarius violin, called the “Lipinski,” to the compositions on the program. There is speculation that Carl Lipinski (1790-1861) played all the works in the program (save for the Röntgen-Maier Sonata) with this violin.

Clara Schumann’s Romance from Op. 22 was the one encore, played flawlessly with wide vibrato and luminous tone from both performers.

This was clearly one of the finest violin recitals in the North Bay in many years.

Bay area violinist Bronislaw Rabin contributed to this review.