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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

Gil Shaham and Akira Eguchi April 26 in Weill Hall (Green Music Center Photo)

SHAHAM-EGUCHI DUO'S EXCITING MUSICAL GENEROSITY IN WEILL

by Abby Wasserman
Friday, April 26, 2019

Violinist Gil Shaham may be the most modest virtuoso on the concert stage today, and it is the great music he most wishes to put forward, never himself. Generosity, a quality he is known for, was abundantly clear in Weill Hall April 26 when he performed, with pianist Akira Eguchi, a generous program spanning four centuries of music.

The duo opened the program with Kreisler’s exhilarating Praeludium and Allegro. The piece, which Kreisler pretended for years was by the Baroque composer Gaetano Pugnani, opens with breathtaking leaps in shifting intervals of four, five, six, eight and 10 notes in the soprano register while the piano line reminds us of the presence of gravity with slow block chords. Mr. Shaham performed with a breadth of feeling that this tour-de-force requires.

Scott Wheeler’s delightful The Singing Turk: Sonata No 2, plays daredevil tricks of its own and merits future performances. Wheeler was inspired by Larry Wolff’s 2016 book The Singing Turk, about the role of Turkish characters in 100 European operas written between the 1680 and 1820 during the Ottoman Empire. Drawing lightly from Handel’s Tamerlane; Gilbert’s The Three Sultanas; and Rossini’s The Turk in Italy, the three movements create musical conversations of Wheeler’s own. The first, “Sů la sponda,” evoked two strangers walking along a shore involved in their own thoughts. There were spurts of notes and violin pizzicato, with shimmering pianism from Mr. Eguchi, bearing snatches of melodic thoughts coalescing eventually into a duet. Movement two, “O vous, que Mars rend invincible,” was somber and delicate, and the third movement, “In Italia,” featured themes in the piano part with a sparkling pulse while the violin part dazzled with a perpetual motion speed.

Mr. Shaham’s sound is light, pure, and mutable. With his magical bow he achieves unusual softness in high registers. His pianissimo can whisper, then grow to an amber mezzo forte or rough fortissimo in a nanosecond. He demonstrated all of this in Israeli composer Avner Dorman’s Nigunim, a thickly textured stew of Jewish music from many cultures and many time periods. The work was commissioned in 2011 by Mr. Shaham and his sister, pianist Orli Shaham, and premiered by the siblings in New York that same year. Within it are the textures and emotions of Jewish music in North Africa and the Middle East, with some non-Jewish musical traditions mixed in.

There are four movements and the first, adagio religioso, begins almost noiselessly. Mr. Shaham’s bowing was eerily quiet, as though heard from a far distance. The piano sounded a theme, inviting the violin to come closer, as it did before again evaporating into the ether. The second movement, scherzo, incorporates Georgian folk rhythms and Turkish/Middle Eastern drone sounds. Its vivid melodies are drawn from Ashkenazi music. In the third (adagio) movement, the piano part evokes water dripping onto a rock or ice melting from a roof, and culminates with a prayer-like melody. The ecstatic presto fourth movement blends Jewish music of Eastern European with Macedonian folk dances. It was a rousing performance by both artists of a complex work, leaving an indelible impression of a rich musical heritage and its cross-cultural influences.

After intermission Mr. Shaham returned to play Bach’s E Major Partita No. 3 (BWV 1006), and he chose a brisk tempo, faster than it is often played, yet it was not really rushed. He employed expressive vibrato and rubato to define the borders of each of the six movements (he played the two Minuets without separation). Performed without a score, unlike the rest of the program that was with a score on tablet, this was Mr. Shaham’s most intimate conception. At times he turned in profile, moving along the apron of the stage as though alone in his studio, then turning and smiling almost shyly at the audience as though saying, Yes, we are here together experiencing the incomparable beauty of Bach’s music. The Preludio first movement, with its gorgeous chromatics, was a standout of the evening. Mr. Shaham plays expressively with his entire body, his face seemingly reflecting how the music affects him.

Franck’s Sonata in A Major, written for his friend and fellow Belgian Eugčne Ysa˙e on the occasion of Ysa˙e’s wedding in 1886, was the evening’s final selection. Franck was a pianist, and Mr. Eguchi’s virtuosity shone in this performance. He had consummate discipline in maintaining a balance with the violin, and though he played strongly and with nuanced inner voices, he could have brought out the gorgeous piano part in the second movement more without overwhelming the violin part. It’s nearly as much a sonata for piano as it is a sonata for violin. The third movement recitativo-fantasia: ben moderato was a performance standout, sensitive and uplifting in the way that only lilting melancholy can attain. As though bookending the Kreisler work, Mr. Shaham’s violin sound floated from note to note in lovely intervals during this movement, like a spider spinning silk.

A standing ovation arose from 600 in the hall, and three curtain calls later, the duo took the stage a last time to play an encore of Bolcom’s elegant Graceful Ghost Rag, a perfectly laidback, delicately rhythmic end to a soul-satisfying musical evening.