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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
Symphony
TWO WIND SOLOISTS CHARM AT SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 26, 2021
The house of music has many rooms. That dusty adage was never truer than when Weill Hall Sept. 25 hosted a roaring New Orleans-style musical party, and less than a day later a mostly sedate Sonoma State University student orchestra performance. Before a crowd of 200 conductor Alexander Kahn led a
Other
CLEARY'S NEW ORLEANS BAND IGNITES PARTY FOR THE GREEN AT SSU
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 25, 2021
A dramatic and unique start to the new Green Music’s Center’ 2021-2022 season exploded in a “Party for the Green” Sept. 25, a New Orleans (NO) style commotion featuring Jon Cleary and his Absolute Monster Gentlemen band, inside and outside of Weill Hall. Beginning with a private gourmet dinner in t
GAULIST FLAVOR IN FINAL SF PIANO FESTIVAL CONCERT AT OLD FIRST
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, August 29, 2021
Final summer music festival programs are often a mix of what has come before, with the theme and even a featured composer taking a last stage appearance, with a dramatic wrap up composition. San Francisco’s International Piano Festival defied the norm August 29 with an eclectic French-flavored prog
SPARE DUO PRECEDES MYSTEROUS DUO AT DEN BOER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, August 27, 2021
In a departure from usual summer festival fare Julia Den Boer played an August 27 virtual recital in the San Francisco Piano Festival’s 4.5 season with four works, all mostly quiet but all in separate ways insistently demanding of artist and listener. Throughout the 40 minutes there was nary a powe
HARMONIC COMPLEXITY IN PHILLIPS' ALL-GRIFFES RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, August 20, 2021
Charles Griffes’ piano music is similar to that of Busoni, Reger and even Poulenc, in that there is a sporadic flourish of interest with concerts and scholarly work, then a quick fade into another long period of obscurity. So, it was a delight to have an all-Griffes recital August 20 on the San F
Chamber
ONE PIANO, TWO PIANO, THREE PIANO, FORE
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 29, 2021
Schroeder Hall was nearly full July 29 for the final pianoSonoma concert of their season, and presumably the draw and highlight for many of the 150 attending was Bach’s Concerto for Four Pianos. And that performance was probably going to be a North Bay premiere. However, it wasn’t the highl
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.