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Chamber
SPARKLING WIND, STRING, HARP MUSIC AT DEVON HOUSE GARDEN CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, October 9, 2021
Take a mild autumn evening, a garden gazebo with patterned rugs and lit with soft bulbs, shake in a fine chamber ensemble, add a rising new moon, and you have a recipe for the musical delight that violist Elizabeth Prior presented Oct. 9 in her Devon House Garden Concert series. The Marin Terra Li
Recital
AUTHORITATIVE BEETHOVEN SONATA IN KLEIN'S OCCIDENTAL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, October 8, 2021
People attending the first Redwood Arts Council Occidental concert in 20 months found a surprise – a luxurious new lobby attached to the Performing Arts Center. It was a welcome bonus to a recital given by pianist Andreas Klein where the music seemed almost as familiar as was the long shuttered hal
Symphony
MOVIE MUSIC ON THE WINDSOR GREEN IN SO CO PHIL SEASON OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 3, 2021
People approaching the Windsor Green bandstand Oct. 3 for the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s season opening concert had some cause for concern. After 18 months of silence would the all-volunteer orchestra have enough musicians for a big movie music program? After all, performers can move, retire, or
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY RETURNS IN TRIUMPH
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 3, 2021
It is often the case that a single piece or performer steals the show at a symphony concert, but at the Oct. 3 performance of the Santa Rosa Symphony, the show itself stole the show. The concert opened with a serene 1982 tone poem by Libby Larsen, followed by a masterful performance by soloist Julia
Symphony
TWO WIND SOLOISTS CHARM AT SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 26, 2021
The house of music has many rooms. That dusty adage was never truer than when Weill Hall Sept. 25 hosted a roaring New Orleans-style musical party, and less than a day later a mostly sedate Sonoma State University student orchestra performance. Before a crowd of 200 conductor Alexander Kahn led a
Other
CLEARY'S NEW ORLEANS BAND IGNITES PARTY FOR THE GREEN AT SSU
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 25, 2021
A dramatic and unique start to the new Green Music’s Center’ 2021-2022 season exploded in a “Party for the Green” Sept. 25, a New Orleans (NO) style commotion featuring Jon Cleary and his Absolute Monster Gentlemen band, inside and outside of Weill Hall. Beginning with a private gourmet dinner in t
GAULIST FLAVOR IN FINAL SF PIANO FESTIVAL CONCERT AT OLD FIRST
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, August 29, 2021
Final summer music festival programs are often a mix of what has come before, with the theme and even a featured composer taking a last stage appearance, with a dramatic wrap up composition. San Francisco’s International Piano Festival defied the norm August 29 with an eclectic French-flavored prog
SPARE DUO PRECEDES MYSTEROUS DUO AT DEN BOER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, August 27, 2021
In a departure from usual summer festival fare Julia Den Boer played an August 27 virtual recital in the San Francisco Piano Festival’s 4.5 season with four works, all mostly quiet but all in separate ways insistently demanding of artist and listener. Throughout the 40 minutes there was nary a powe
HARMONIC COMPLEXITY IN PHILLIPS' ALL-GRIFFES RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, August 20, 2021
Charles Griffes’ piano music is similar to that of Busoni, Reger and even Poulenc, in that there is a sporadic flourish of interest with concerts and scholarly work, then a quick fade into another long period of obscurity. So, it was a delight to have an all-Griffes recital August 20 on the San F
Chamber
ONE PIANO, TWO PIANO, THREE PIANO, FORE
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 29, 2021
Schroeder Hall was nearly full July 29 for the final pianoSonoma concert of their season, and presumably the draw and highlight for many of the 150 attending was Bach’s Concerto for Four Pianos. And that performance was probably going to be a North Bay premiere. However, it wasn’t the highl
CHAMBER REVIEW
Green Music Center / Friday, November 10, 2017
Les Artes Florissants

Partial Les Artes Florissants touring troupe in 2015

RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL

by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017

Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented.

With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticity are needed, and with Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and Charpentier’s Actéon the Les Artes Florissants ensemble from Caen, France, were an ideal match. Before an audience of 400 the seven singers and seven instrumentalists, guided at the harpsichord by founder and director William Christie, gave spirited and authoritative readings of the two lyric operas, composed within six years of each other in the 1680s.

Colorful women’s dresses helped brighten the bare Weill stage and each of the singers moved about the stage and emphasized parts of the dramas. Actéon is a pastorale en musique with an ideal balance between dramatic singing, instrumental ensemble (two violins, viola, gamba, baroque oboe, 12-string lute and harpsichord) and stage action. The movement of the singers and their theatrical facial expressions and shouts lent excitement and sometimes histrionic charm inside the bounds of the restricted performance area.

Charpentier’s libretto is brief: Actéon and his hunting pals separate, and the later finds himself viewing the goddess Diane and her sisters bathing in a bucolic pool with flowers. He hides but is discovered, and the avenging Diane casts a spell that turns Actéon into a stag. He flees but us torn apart by the hunter’s hounds.

Singing Diane was the regal Élodie Fonnard with Reinoud Van Mechelen as Actéon. Both were able to direct their powerful voices to mesh with, at least for Diane, the women giving advice that surrounded her in the forest. Mr. Van Mechelen was particularly persuasive in the complex scene where he turns from man to animal. The unnamed choreographer (Mr. Christie?) designed simple but quite effective gestures and movements that supported the luscious baroque harmonies and repetitive French opera rhythms. There was palpable sadness from Diane’s court over a vengeful and perhaps an unnecessary hero’s death, using rich vocal colors, but it was of minimal duration. A standing ovation followed the final words.

A concert oversight was that no musicians were identified in the printed program, nor were they on the French websites. Mention needs to be made of the gamba player who toiled tirelessly all evening with Mr. Christie in continuo, and the 12-string lutenist that sat in the harpsichord’s case curve and provided non-stop sonic underpinning.

After intermission the more popular and slightly longer Purcell work was heard with the same forces. The sprightly overture was exciting, highlighted by cello and lute duos, and the oboe part could mimic the sounds of subdued brass and a modern clarinet. Odd indeed to my ears. The longer recitatives were supported by the lute and harpsichord lines. In Dido the singing continued to adroitly bring character and shape to the minimal but telling words. Carlo Vistoli (countertenor) had the requisite calculating menace as the sorceress, and the two witches (Maud Gnidzaz and Virginie Thomas) had penetrating snarls, as did the multi-character Renato Dolcini (Aeneas, peripheral participant). Familiar arias such as “Come Away Ye Sailors” and “Ho Ho Ho When Ships Sail Away” were sung with attractive abandon.

A lovely gamba solo introduced the famous Dido’s Lament (When I am Laid In Earth) that was sung with carefully shaped descending whole notes by soprano Lea Desandre, who then slowly strode stage left through the door to her opera doom. Sadness was convincingly conveyed by the upper strings and finally by the chorus, asking that roses as soft ad Dido’s heart be spread on her tomb.

A first in Weill Hall was supertitles, displayed on a forty-foot wide black screen and hung over the choral section behind the stage. The letters, unlike in many local theaters, were large and easily readable, and were faultlessly coordinated with the two mesmerizing productions, the first in impeccable French and the second in mostly recognizable English.