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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...
CHAMBER REVIEW

Marcia Battat Greets Performers at the Jan. 26 in Napa (N. Rorick photo)

MOSTLY MOZART WITH A LITTLE BEETHOVEN AND SOR IN NAPA

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 26, 2020

Sharing the stage with a local diva is a tough task for even seasoned musicians, but Napa College faculty soprano Christina Howell stole the show Jan. 26 when the Napa Valley Music Associates presented an eclectic program of mostly Mozart music. Somehow compositions of Sor and Beethoven joined the mix.

Before an audience of 200 in the downtown Napa First Presbyterian Church Ms. Howell appeared twice with pianist Mark Osten, singing three of Mozart’s most popular songs, and the “Et Incarnates Est” aria from the C Minor Mass, K. 427. Her resonant voice was heard well in the upper registers in the problematic acoustics of the large church, and big thematic projection was needed and came with “An Chloe” (K 524) and the nostalgic and lyrical “Abendempfindug”, K. 523.

Ms. Howell’s ebullient personality and verbal introductions from the stage enhanced her last song, “Das Veilchen” (K. 476), pairing well with Mr. Osten’s fluent pianism, though at less than mezzo forte the German words tended to be less clear, at least at the back of the church with its extended reverberation. It was dramatic and convincing singing, agile when the music demanded, and spotlighted three gems from Mozart’s compact group of art songs.

Guitarist Eric Symons then played three Sor works, with one Mozart connection in the Op. 9 Variations on “O’Cara Armonia” from the 1791 Opera “The Magic Flute.” Mr. Symon’s substantial stage presence was equaled by his un-amplified playing, and after a too long spoken introduction his plucked six-string instrument had a resonant and rich sound. He used various speeds of vibrato for effect, and the fast variants with arpeggios were telling. The Etude in B Minor followed, a piece the artist first learned at age 12, and featured symmetrical phrasing and quiet repetitions.

The final Op. 15 Sor Sonata was oddly similar to Mozart’s music, with lots of filigree, upward flourishes that equaled in clarity in contrary descending phrases in much repetition. Mr. Symons played from score but seldom looked at the music. He cradles his instrument as with a young child.

Returning with the deft Mr. Osten’s fine pianism, Ms. Howell soared often into high registers with Melisma in the aria from the Mass, showing impressive emotional power in swirling sound that often echoed the piano line. In her interpretation the work, especially in the cadenza, sounded more Romantic than Classical, and was an afternoon highlight.

Violinist Daniel Lewin joined pianist William Corbett-Jones to close the concert with Beethoven’s G major Romance, Op. 40, and Mozart’s short A Major Sonata, K. 305. Playing from score, Mr. Levin played a lovely introduction to the Romance that quickly shaded flat, but as he found his intonation footing the music (it is often played with orchestra) had more security. Mr. Corbett-Jones, a stellar Beethoven and Mozart specialist with decades of musical triumphs, played with lyrical charm.

The Sonata was performed with the requisite lightness and warm phrasing, and at times the violinist’s line was covered by the piano sound, even with the house instrument’s lid closed . It was playing in the “gallant” style with varied string vibrato, and with Mr. Corbett-Jones playing fetching legato phrases, and trading thematic statements with Mr. Lewin. They clearly have an affinity for this music. This Sonata from the late 1770s is far removed from those of Haydn, and the variations in the second movement were played in a suitably leisurely way, never heavy or demanding on the ear. It was the longest work on the program but it never seemed long.

Following audience applause Impresario Marcia Battat announced Napa Valley Music Associates concerts in March, May and June (dates TBA), and directed listeners to a gratis lavish lobby buffet with wines from the up-and-coming Lekker Napa Vineyards.