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Chamber
THE LINCOLN RETURNS WITH CLARKE'S PUNGENT TRIO
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, November 18, 2021
There were many familiar faces Nov. 18 during Music at Oakmont’s initial concert of the season, but perhaps the most necessary were the three musicians of the Lincoln Piano Trio, the Chicago-based group that has performed often in Oakmont since 2006. A smaller than unusual audience in Berger Audito
Symphony
NOSTALGIC BARBER KNOXVILLE AT SO CO PHIL JACKSON THEATER CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 14, 2021
In their first Jackson Theater appearance of the new season the Sonoma County Philharmonic presented Nov. 14 a program devoid of novelty, but showcasing the “People’s Orchestra” in splendid performance condition after a long COVID-related layoff. Conductor Norman Gamboa drew a committed and boister
Chamber
THRILLING PIANO QUINTETS IN MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 14, 2021
The Mill Valley Chamber Music Society sprang back to life on November 14 when a stellar ensemble from the Manhattan Chamber Players, a New York-based collective, arrived to perform two piano quintets: Vaughn-Williams’ in C Minor (1903), little known and rarely performed; and Schubert’s in A Major D.
Chamber
MUSCULAR BRAHMS FROM IVES COLLECTIVE IN GLASER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 14, 2021
Leaving SRJC’s Newman Auditorium for the first time in decades, the College’s Chamber Concert Series presented a season-opening concert Nov. 14 in Santa Rosa’s Glaser Center with the four-musician Bay-Area based Ives Collective. The season, the first given since 2020, is dedicated to Series Founder
Symphony
MONUMENTAL BRAHMS SYMPHONY HIGHLIGHTS MARIN SYMPHONY RETURN
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 7, 2021
In the waning COVID pandemic the Marin Symphony is one of the last Bay Area orchestras to return to the stage, and they did with considerable fanfare Nov. 7 before 1,200 in Civic Center Auditorium, with resident conductor Alasdair Neale leading a demanding concert of Brahms, Schumann and New York-ba
Symphony
APOLLO'S FIRE LIGHTS UP VIVALDI'S FOUR SEASONS IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 30, 2021
Long ago the Canadian violin virtuoso Gil Shaham played a program in Weill Hall of solo Bach, with a visual backdrop of slowly developing visuals, such as a pokey flower opening over four minutes. The Bach was sensational, and some in the audience liked the photos but many found them disconcerting,
Chamber
SPARKLING WIND, STRING, HARP MUSIC AT DEVON HOUSE GARDEN CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, October 9, 2021
Take a mild autumn evening, a garden gazebo with patterned rugs and lit with soft bulbs, shake in a fine chamber ensemble, add a rising new moon, and you have a recipe for the musical delight that violist Elizabeth Prior presented Oct. 9 in her Devon House Garden Concert series. The Marin Terra Li
Recital
AUTHORITATIVE BEETHOVEN SONATA IN KLEIN'S OCCIDENTAL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, October 8, 2021
People attending the first Redwood Arts Council Occidental concert in 20 months found a surprise – a luxurious new lobby attached to the Performing Arts Center. It was a welcome bonus to a recital given by pianist Andreas Klein where the music seemed almost as familiar as was the long shuttered hal
Symphony
MOVIE MUSIC ON THE WINDSOR GREEN IN SO CO PHIL SEASON OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 3, 2021
People approaching the Windsor Green bandstand Oct. 3 for the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s season opening concert had some cause for concern. After 18 months of silence would the all-volunteer orchestra have enough musicians for a big movie music program? After all, performers can move, retire, or
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY RETURNS IN TRIUMPH
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 3, 2021
It is often the case that a single piece or performer steals the show at a symphony concert, but at the Oct. 3 performance of the Santa Rosa Symphony, the show itself stole the show. The concert opened with a serene 1982 tone poem by Libby Larsen, followed by a masterful performance by soloist Julia
CHAMBER REVIEW

Telegraph Quartet in Mill Valley Nov. 10 (A. Wasserman Photo)

SPIRITUAL LATE BEETHOVEN QUARTET HIGHLIGHTS MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT

by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 10, 2019

Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Op. 131, called “unparalleled in its inexhaustibility” by critic Thomas May, is a daunting challenge. Orchestral in concept, filled with wit and charm, melancholy and fury, it almost overwhelms listeners. Playing the frenetic Scherzo, a violinist once commented, was “like galloping through hell.” But the piece is sublime, and the Telegraph Quartet, performing it Nov. 10 at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church for the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society, fully met its challenges.

The San Francisco-based group: Eric Chin and Joseph Maile, violins; Pei-Ling Lin, viola; and cellist Jeremiah Shaw, delivered a performance of great eloquence, and did so after preceding the Beethoven with two other grand works: Berg’s Quartet No. 3 and Bartók’s Fourth Quartet. The concert was a tour-de-force.

Comments and brief musical illustrations by Messrs. Maile and Chin prefaced each selection. Mr. Maile described Berg’s two-movement piece from 1910 as “packed full of character emotions and overwrought feelings.” In it, Berg, self-taught before composer Arnold Schoenberg became his mentor and teacher, straddles Schoenberg’s twelve-tone technique and the Romantic tradition of their Viennese forbears Brahms and Mahler. Schoenberg wrote of the piece, Berg’s first mature work, that it “surprised me in the most unbelievable way by the fullness and unconstraint of its musical language, the strength and sureness of its presentation, its careful working and significant originality.”

Its first movement, Langsam, is a moody soundscape of sighing rises and sonic falls and agitated trills. Bowing effects conjured up different characters for a four-way dialogue; and even when they harmonize, there’s a broad edge of dissonance. The second movement, Mässiger viertel (“moderate quarter”), further engages the players in a conversation that is punctuated by string tremolos, ponticelli, pizzicati and glissandos. Momentum flags and gathers anew, but the piece ends abruptly, as though its musical momentum has hit a sonic wall.

Bartók’s five-movement Quartet, Mr. Chin explained prior to the performance, is structured in an arc: movements one and five and two and four are connected thematically, with an ethereal third movement, Non troppo lento, as the anchor. He also pointed out that Bartók loved bugs, and we would hear them scurrying around in the piece, as well strong rhythms and haunting melodies of Hungarian folk music the composer meticulously researched and championed.

Throughout the quartet one heard slashing rhythms that brought Stravinsky to mind, but not because Bartók was copying; rather, both composers incorporated similar folk music into compositions. Biting notes and offbeat rhythms characterized some of the most exciting moments in the Bartók, which the Telegraph players attacked with virtuosity and also nuance. The third movement was shimmering night music: melodic, plaintive and moonlit. A bird song similar to Vaughan Williams’ “The Lark Ascending” hovered exquisitely toward movement’s end. Bartôk’s music often shows the importance of inserting calm into the sonic fabric of great intensity, and here he employed different effects to make the strings speak changing idioms. The Allegretto pizzicato fourth movement showcased how varied “mere” string plucking can be, from light clicks to vigorous slaps that Bartôk claimed as his own, the string lifted high so that descending, it loudly slaps the instrument’s wood.

Following intermission the audience settled in for a performance of one of Beethoven’s transcendent quartets. Mr. Maile speculated that chronologically, the Beethoven would have come first on the program, because the others “wouldn’t have been possible” without its innovations. The C-Sharp Minor Quartet is 40 minutes long and has seven movements (unprecedented at the time) and each is played without pause. It begins with a slow fugue, creating a fateful atmosphere that while chorale-like, is reminiscent of Bach’s “descending angels” in some fugues of the Well-Tempered Clavier. The Telegraph players’ instruments blended thrillingly, even in unison projecting distinctive, individual voices.

The most powerful of the seven movements was the fourth, (Andante ma non troppo e molto cantabile), a theme and variations where each variation is played in a different style and by different instrumental combinations. The ensemble’s lively, witty Presto (movement five) sounded like an obsessive spinning wheel, and the final Allegro in sonata form incorporated and reorganized the fugue from the first movement. Responding to the music’s vital force, the Telegraph potently conveyed the resignation, anger and defiance Beethoven wrote into the piece.

As the final passionate notes faded, the Mill Valley audience rose to shower the Telegraph Quartet with accolades.