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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....
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 Bell’s virtuosity, and were treated as well to splendid playing from Sam Haywood, Mr. Bell’s regular pianist since 2010. The duo performed three engaging sonatas, highlighted by Mr. Bell’s sterling technique, precise intonation and powerful thematic projection. An easy rapport between the two was a joy to hear and observe.

Beethoven’s 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 music’s 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 performer’s 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 sonata’s romantic andante in which the opening theme is reiterated with exotic harmonies and figurations characteristic of the composer. The Sonata’s finale was thrilling, with Sisyphean ascents and precipitous violin downslides. Both the last two movements are fashioned classically and emotionally “cool,” and the work ended quietly, as though with philosophical resignation.

Following intermission the artists returned to perform Grieg’s Sonata No. 2, Op. 13, a work from 1867 that isn’t 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. Bell’s bow exhibited a light touch that underscored the music’s joy with leaps and hops of phrasing. In the second movement the violinist’s 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 Schumann’s Romance, Op. 22, No. 1, which he played with poignant grace and heart-stirring warmth, blending beautifully with Mr. Haywood’s soft arpeggio chords and elegant phrasing.

Joachim’s 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 Wieniawski’s 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.