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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
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
Oakmont Concert Series / Thursday, December 11, 2008
Axel Strauss and Friends

CELLISTS SHINE IN OAKMONT SEASON FINALE

by
Monday, December 15, 2008

Violinist Axel Strauss brought four of his favorite chamber musician friends Dec. 11 to Oakmont’s Berger Auditorium in for the final concert of the 18th season. The program opened with Anton Arensky’s Quartet No. 2 in A Minor, Op. 35, No. 2, for violin, viola and two cellos, and concluded with Franz Schubert‘s famous String Quintet in C Major, D. 956, for two violins, viola and two cellos. His colleagues for this concert were violinist Leonie Bot, violist Ben Simon and husband-and-wife cellists Jean-Michel and Dana Putnam Fonteneau.

The Bay Area is rich in fine string players and German-born Strauss is at or near the top of his profession. His violin playing is technically secure, musically nuanced, electric when called for, and he produces a gorgeous sound that always plays to the character and direction of the music. Results can be mixed in concerts based on the “And Friends” format, as unlike pre-formed chamber ensembles that play together on a regular basis, when “friends” get together there is usually less rehearsal time and therefore a greater possibility of a less-than-polished performance. Conversely, the air can be charged with spontaneity and electricity, given the newness of the ensemble. Happily at this concert the latter mostly occurred

Both in style and temperament the Russian Anton Arensky shows considerable affinity to Tchaikovsky. He lived and flourished in Moscow in the last half of the 19th century, and his output was modest. This string quartet, one of two he penned, rarely gets a hearing because its instrumentation does not match that of the traditional quartet of two violins, viola and cello. The dark character of the piece is enhanced by the predominance of lower strings. It is an uneven work, and most who hear it would agree that its middle movement, “Variations on a Theme of Tchaikovsky”, is where its strength lies. Here Arensky masters the theme and variations form, and it seems perfectly constructed, with calibrated use of many of the string instrument’s colorful capabilities: pizzicato, mute, ponticello. While the ensemble was not perfect, the players gave this movement a prismatic and heartfelt reading, and Dana Fonteneau distinguished herself in the elegant principal cello part.

After intermission, the musicians brought their old friend Franz Schubert to the stage, and played his hour-long Quintet about as well as I’ve ever heard it. If this concert was a treat for fans of the cello, the Schubert Quintet adroitly contributed as it contains one of the most beautiful cello duets in the chamber literature. The luscious first-movement theme returns often, to sublime effect. The cellists Fonteneau gave it a tender reading, their sounds beautifully matched. Strauss is a superb leader, and his virtuosity drove this monumental Quintet right through to the last note, prompting an immediate standing ovation from the audience of 200.