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Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PREMIERES DAUGHERTY SKETCHES OF SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 8, 2022
Chamber
BRAHMS-ERA TRIOS HIGHLIGHT OAKMONT CHAMBER CONCERT
by Nicholas Xelenis
Thursday, May 5, 2022
Chamber
CHAMBER GEMS OF BRAHMS IN TRIO NAVARRO'S SCHROEDER CONCERT
by Judy Walker
Sunday, May 1, 2022
Recital
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by Gary Digman
Friday, April 29, 2022
Symphony
VSO'S ELEGANT PASTORAL SYMPHONY SHINES IN EMPRESS RETURN
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 24, 2022
Choral and Vocal
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by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Friday, April 15, 2022
Symphony
LUSH ORCHESTRA PLAYING IN SO CO PHIL-LLOYD MEMORIAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 3, 2022
Chamber
DISPARATE TRIOS IN HOLLYWOOD PIANO TRIO'S 222 CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 2, 2022
Chamber
TANGO IMMERSION IN MILL VALLEY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 27, 2022
Recital
ALLURING GLASS WORKS IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 25, 2022
RECITAL REVIEW

Joshua Bell (l) and Sam Haywood Feb. 8 in Weill Hall (Brennan Spark Photography)

INTRIGUING BELL-HAYWOOD RECITAL BEFORE FULL HOUSE IN WEILL HALL

by Abby Wasserman
Friday, February 8, 2019

A big portion of the capacity audience in Weill Hall February 8th came to hear violinist Joshua Bellís virtuosity, and were treated as well to splendid playing from Sam Haywood, Mr. Bellís regular pianist since 2010. The duo performed three engaging sonatas, highlighted by Mr. Bellís sterling technique, precise intonation and powerful thematic projection. An easy rapport between the two was a joy to hear and observe.

Beethovenís enigmatic fourth Sonata 4 in A minor, Op. 23, opened the program. The intense first movement, presto, launches into a gallopy dialogue from which thematic poignancy emerged with a sense of fleeting beauty. Beethoven began the sonata in 1801 when his hearing was deteriorating, and his anxiety at the time likely made its way into the work. Mr. Bell did not emphasize the sadness implicit in the first movement but let the character of the minor mode, in which most of the movement is written, predominate.

In the following andante scherzo, piu allegretto, brief fragmentary declarations moved back and forth between piano and violin, and a fugue section resolved effectively in trills from both instruments. In the concluding third movement, the instrumental voices sang an allegro molto operatic duet with the musicís lyrical longing undercut by ominous rumbling. The three-note ascending figurations in the Sonata seemed to question whether to go forward or give up, but the spritely motive from the first movement returned, and all was resolved suddenly and quietly. An impressive and intriguing reading.

Prokofiev wrote his stunning D Major Flute Sonata in 1942, and Soviet violinist David Oistrakh suggested the composer recast it for his instrument, giving it the opus number 94a. As performed here it was a revelation. The first of four movements (moderato) is characterized by transcendent leaps and slides and insistent rhythms, with the theme repeated in different registers and reinvented countless times, but the score also contains a certain claustrophobic feeling.

In the second scherzo, presto a wild dance ensues, leading toward a lyrical section where the violin part mimes bird trills and calls. Spring and rebirth are suggested in the music, with an undertone of unease, and the performerís flying fingers brought the Sonata to an exciting close, inspiring some of the audience to break into applause. The artists paused until the enthusiasm abated, then proceeded to the sonataís romantic andante in which the opening theme is reiterated with exotic harmonies and figurations characteristic of the composer. The Sonataís finale was thrilling, with Sisyphean ascents and precipitous violin downslides. Both the last two movements are fashioned classically and emotionally ďcool,Ē and the work ended quietly, as though with philosophical resignation.

Following intermission the artists returned to perform Griegís Sonata No. 2, Op. 13, a work from 1867 that isnít played as much as the C Minor Op. 45 piece written 20 years later. The first lento doloroso movement initially reflected a dirge that settled into something quite cheerful as a mini-cadenza in the violin part stated the theme and broke into a Norwegian folk dance. Mr. Bellís bow exhibited a light touch that underscored the musicís joy with leaps and hops of phrasing. In the second movement the violinistís interpretation showcased quick emotional changes, and his playing in the closing allegro animato featured piquant pizzicatos, dark tonal colors and deft phrases that built momentum to a thrilling conclusion.

The audience erupted in applause. After three curtain calls, Mr. Bell addressed the audience, kindly inquiring about the condition of a patron who had fainted and been taken out during the Beethoven. He then continued that he and Mr. Haywood would finish with three short encore works, and proceeded to Clara Schumannís Romance, Op. 22, No. 1, which he played with poignant grace and heart-stirring warmth, blending beautifully with Mr. Haywoodís soft arpeggio chords and elegant phrasing.

Joachimís arrangement of the Brahms first Hungarian Dance came next, and here the violinist gave way to his gypsy soul, playing with dramatic verve and convincing rubato. The last encore was Wieniawskiís Scherzo-Tarantelle, Op. 16, a show-stopper work that was played at turns playfully and fast, with lyrical interludes, and always with brilliant technique. Mr. Bell told the audience that he had recently returned to it after many years. It had been part of his first youthful recital decades ago.