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SIX GUITARISTS IN UNIQUE NAPA RECITAL
by Gary Digman
Sunday, July 25, 2021
The first Napa Valley Guitar Festival was held at Napa’s First Presbyterian Church July 25, and featured performances from six classical guitarists. The Church is an iconic structure in downtown Napa, its huge white presence dominating the scene, and the white theme continues inside punctuated by be
Chamber
CLARA SCHUMANN TRIO COMMANDS VOM CHAMBER MUSIC CONCERT AT HANNA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 24, 2021
The Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Series has begun several virtual and a few live concerts in its new seventh season, some broadcast from Sonoma’s Hanna Center Hall and some in posh local venues. July 24’s video had a small live audience and a well-produced video program of three works. Titled “
Chamber
EXEMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MENDO FESTIVAL FT. BRAGG CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Faced with the impossibility of presenting concerts in the iconic large white tent on the bluff, the Mendocino Music Festival opted to use Ft. Bragg’s Cotton Auditorium for ten events in the abbreviated 35th season. San Francisco’s Alexander String Quartet played July 21 to a fully masked audience
Chamber
ECLECTIC PROGRAMMING AT PIANOSONOMA CONCERT IN SCHROEDER HALL
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Tuesday, July 20, 2021
After a dark year bereft of live performance, pianoSonoma launched July 20 the first Vino & Vibrato concert of the 2021 season in Sonoma State's Schroeder Hall, albeit sadly senza vino due to Covid protocols. Three exceptional musicians showered the audience with an interesting variety of pia
Chamber
RARELY-PLAYED SCHUMANN HIGHLIGHTS HEALDSBURG RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 10, 2021
Brave New Music sporadically produces concerts in and around Healdsburg, and July 10’s violin recital in downtown St. Paul’s Church must have been one of the first post-lockdown, post-be-extra-careful classical music concerts in Sonoma County's summer season. New Music Founder Gary McLaughlin with
Chamber
ECHOS ON A WARM SUMMER NIGHT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, July 10, 2021
ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s first concert in a year and a half, “A Musical Promenade,” was a promenade indeed. When patrons arrived at San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for the 6:00 performance July 10, they were funneled through the garden to the Duncan Hall patio, where folding chairs were set
Chamber
LONG DISTANCE LOVE BEGINS VOM SUMMER FESTIVAL
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Thursday, June 24, 2021
The Valley of the Moon Music Festival offered a 7th season preview June 24 with a stunning online concert, aptly named Long Distance Love, featuring inspired performances of Beethoven's short song cycle An die ferne Geliebte,, and selections from Brahms’ beloved Liebeslieder Wal
Recital
ROMERO'S ARTISTRY IN SLV RECITAL PROGRAMMING AND PERFORMANCE
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 2, 2021
Gustavo Romero has been an admired visitor to North Bay stages, playing over a decade recitals at Dominican University, the Music at Oakmont concerts and at the Spring Lake Village Concert Series. He returned June 2 to SLV in a virtual recital, videoed from his home concert hall the University of N
RUBICON'S VIRTUAL CONCERT A MALANGE OF CONTRASTS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, May 16, 2021
The inaugural concert of a new Mendocino County chamber group is a reason for celebration, and the Rubicon Trio made the most of a mixed musical menu during a May16 virtual concert. Presented by the Ukiah Symphony Orchestra as the last in their “Salons with the Symphony” Series, the Rubicon began w
Recital
PIANO VIRTUOSITY IN YAKUSHEV'S REDWOOD ARTS RECITAL
by Nicki Bell
Sunday, May 16, 2021
Russian pianist Ilya Yakushev’s recital for the Redwood Arts Council was perhaps the local season’s virtual music at the greatest distance, as the filming May 16 came from a church in St. Petersburg. And good filming it was, with multiple camera viewpoints of the church, full and split screens and
CHAMBER REVIEW

Mutter-Orkis Duo in Weill March 2 (J. McNeill Photo)

ADVENTUROUS BACH AND PENDERECKI IN MUTTER-ORKIS WEILL RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 2, 2018

German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter returned to Weill Hall March 2 in a recital curiously different than her appearance on the same stage several years ago, and also dissimilar to a recent San Francisco concert with a heroic Respighi Sonata performance.

On a rainy night before 700 fans Ms. Mutter and her wonderful decades-long pianist Lambert Orkis chose a program that was inquisitive but also inconclusive. The latter came at the beginning of each half, all Brahms, and began the short Sonatensatz movement from the F.A.E. Sonata of 1853. It received a lively reading but the violinist was not note perfect, but quickly found her stride and the ending trills were crystalline. All through the recital, save for the final work, she played without score. It was a model opening but passed without being persuasive.

Brahms’ A Major Sonata followed intermission, last heard in Sonoma County years ago in a crackling Joseph Edelberg and Corrick Brown performance in Newman Hall. Here it was a small-scaled reading of the bucolic piece from 1886, one of the composer’s most lyrical and beguiling chamber compositions. Although the andante tranquillo second movement, with the well known pizzicato section, was played briskly, but Ms. Mutter was in no rush to get anywhere, and allowed the enchanting themes to unfold naturally. Mr. Orkis’ adjusted his piano sound, often overly reticent, and never covered the violin part. All was sweet and a little underplayed.

If the Brahms works were somewhat “proforma,” the duo’s choice of the Bach D Minor solo Partita (BWV 1004) and Penderecki’s 2nd Sonata were strikingly adventurous. Bach clearly was on fire when he wrote the five-part dance Partita during the Cöthen years, and Ms. Mutter provided a reading that focused on balance and contrasting tempos rather than the incandescence of Gil Shaham in Weill Hall three years ago.

She was most captivating in the quiet sections, and bow control in soft passages was supreme. She deftly built many small climaxes and though her volume was not large, the violin soared when the music demanded it. Trills and double stops were perfection. The gigue was played wonderfully and of course presto, a reminder of similar speed in a long ago Bach gigue (G Minor Sonata) by Hilary Hahn in Wells. Few musical things give me more instant pleasure than a headlong but always-controlled presto violin dash through a Bach gigue.

Ms. Mutter concluded with an extended sonic climax after four short sculpted phrases, and an extra-long fermata. An immediate standing ovation ensued.

It took courage to end the program with the Penderecki, a knotty piece written in 2000 for Ms. Mutter and Mr. Orkis. The violinist has championed contemporary string music, and in her 32-minute journey through the sprawling music (she used the score) seemingly every facet of violin virtuosity was on display: slashing bow strokes, short motives laced by long dissonant phrases, wispy inserted themes and plentiful small changes in articulation. Mr. Orkis used pedal point in many places, sometimes loud and sometimes soft.

In what must have been a North Coast debut, the Sonata alternates mystery with frenzy, and the violinist was up to every challenge, ending with a long piercing phrase in the stratosphere of the e string. A sonic odyssey indeed.

Applause was long and loud, and generated a single encore of Elman's transcription of Schubert’s Ständchen (Serenade), D. 957. Ms. Mutter played it with exemplary bow mastery in the character of the Schubert “landler,” albeit chock full of double and triple stops, Viennese charm and delicate expressive changes in pitch.