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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...
RECITAL REVIEW

A. Gabrielson and S. Myklebust Acknowledge Applause Sept. 9 in Occidental (J. McNeill photo)

DUO WEST OPENS OCCIDENTAL CONCERT SEASON

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 9, 2018

Before a full house at the Occidental Performing Arts Center Sept. 9 the cello-piano Duo West, playing from score throughout, presented a recital that on paper looked stimulating and thoughtful.

Beginning with MacDowell’s To A Wild Rose (from Woodland Sketches, Op. 51), the transcription by an unannounced arranger made little impact and probably was something novel to most of the audience. An odd choice not explained, but the Fauré D Minor Sonata (Op. 109) that followed was explained by the artists wielding two microphones with an extended interplay of commentary. The audience seemed to enjoy the descriptions of simplistic ideas of contrast in musical composition.

A work from late in the composer’s life, the Sonata’s charms and harmonies are complex and elusive, and cellist Sonja Myklebust’s round sound was well placed for the uneven phrases and unique rhythms. Pianist Abbie Gabrielson had good ensemble with Mr. Myklebust but her playing lacked individuality, and wasn’t helped by the hall’s sub-professional instrument with its wooden sonority and subdued treble.

The Sonata’s best playing was in the lovely andante’s long line and wandering melodies. Bow control here was good and the playing had rich tone in the many modulations. In the finale the duo chose a tempo that was too slow for bringing out the urgency of the music, especially at the end where the momentum in the cello part builds to a joyful climax. The composer’ sobriquet is “Old Arpeggio,” and Ms. Gabrielson added a few inner voices to the delightful swirl of arpeggiated chords.

Before intermission Arvo Pärt’s ten-minute Spiegel im Spiegel was an audience favorite, with Ms. Myklebust’s vibrato widening and the long minimalist exposed line captivating. Cello intonation was very good and the vital clarity of the long-held note changes was excellent. Mild dissonances in the piano part added to the piece’s mystery, with just one blurred cello entry point note and a fetching swelling of vibrato at the concluding fermata. The ovation was long and loud.

Shostakovich’s popular 2nd Sonata, Op.40, came after intermission, and echoed a performance four days earlier at Santa Rosa’s Spring Lake Village Concert Series. In both performances the tempos were on the slow side, diluting the momentum and often sarcasm of the composer. But there is rhapsody in this music, and none of the banality of the cello’s theme in the First Cello Concerto. But Shostakovich does wonders with banal themes, and Ms. Myklebust projected themes alluringly with fine control in pianissimo passages. Pitch was sporadically off when coming down from a high-register quiet notes. There were references here to the composer’s Fourth Symphony, something I had not heard a cellist do before in the D Minor Sonata.

The exciting scherzo was played with an appropriate harshness and again a judicious tempo, leading into the long phrases of the largo. The Duo West gave it a gripping reading, underscoring the dissonances and strange transitions. Sadness trumped melancholy. A program highlight

The finale’s dramatic juxtaposition with the largo followed, with a much lighter instrumental texture, acerbic tunes and a cascade of piano notes.

Ginastera’s Pampeana (Op. 21, No. 2) closed the concert, a bravura work reminiscent of the composer’s Danzes Argentinas. The playing had the right amount of frantic rhythms and heavy textures, but also some leavening fantasy. Repeated phrases and raucous sforzandos from Ms. Gabrielson were telling additions to Ms. Myklebust’s double stops and admirable virtuosity.