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Choral and Vocal
SILVER ANNIVERSARY BACH RECITAL AT INCARNATION'S EVENSONG SERVICE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 4, 2022
Symphony
JOY, LOVELY DIVINE SPARK!
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 4, 2022
Other
DINOVA PIANISM CHARMS SATED AUDIENCE AT J-B MARIN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 20, 2022
Symphony
SHOSTAKOVICH 5TH A TRIUMPH FOR SSU ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 19, 2022
Choral and Vocal
SONOMA BACH'S WORLD IN SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, November 19, 2022
Recital
ASSERTIVE PIANISM IN YAKUSHEV'S OCCIDENTAL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 13, 2022
Symphony
SPARKLING PONCHIELLI AND IMPOSING SCHUMAN AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 12, 2022
Chamber
CONTRASTS GALORE AT THE VIANO'S CONCERT AT THE 222
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 11, 2022
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY STOMPS ALONG TO MARSALIS VIOLIN CONCERTO
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 6, 2022
Choral and Vocal
TRAVELS WITH SEBASTIAN IN SONOMA BACH'S OPENER IN SCHROEDER
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, October 29, 2022
CHAMBER REVIEW

Laura Magnani at ECHO Concert (A. Wasserman Photo)

PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT

by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020

As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals.

It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and performed by ECHO percussionists Christian Foster Howes and Alapaki Yee. Mr. Yee explained from the stage that "Kaizen" is a Japanese term “about the small, consistent changes we go through in our lives.” From its opening strikes and rolls, the piece immersed the audience in insistent pulse, pitch changes, shifting tempos, and surprising tonalities. It was a reminder of how musical drumming can be. The musicians formed intricate patterns with buttery taps, sharp strikes, thunder-like rolls and rumbles, and tuneful variations in pitch. It was mesmerizing. At the conclusion there was a split second of silence, then the audience showered the composers with applause and the kind of whistles one hears at a sports game.

The next surprise was to see the piano positioned on the platform at the rear of the stage for Laura Magnani’s performance of Mozart’s D Minor Concerto, No. 20, K. 466. Mozart wrote some of his most heartrending music in D minor, including the Requiem and parts of the opera Don Giovanni. Before taking her seat at the piano, Ms. Magnani described the avant-garde character of the concerto and said that Beethoven, who greatly admired this work, wrote the cadenzas she would perform.

The first Allegro movement began with an ominous orchestral introduction with cries of suffering from the violins. When the piano part entered, its tones rising bell-like above the orchestra, the mood softened, and a seesaw of darkness and light continued throughout the movement. The tension never fully lifted: even in the lovely Romanze second movement, sudden storms arose. The tumultuous third movement, Rondo: Allegro assai, built to a climax, the orchestra providing momentum and pulse, the piano its translucent partner. After thrilling pianistic runs and intricate trills, Ms. Magnani ended the concerto at a gallop. Her playing was lithe and muscular, faithful to the score and spirit, and deeply expressive. The solo cadenzas made a palpable connection between Mozart and Beethoven.

A sustained standing ovation elicited an encore: Chopin’s Fantaisie Impromptu, Op. 66, which Ms. Magnani performed dazzlingly.

In the interval before the final work, Louise Farrenc’s G Minor Symphony No. 3, Opus 36, flutist and Orchestra Manager Carol Adee noted how little about Farrenc appeared in even recent music dictionaries, and how important ECHO considers her music. Last year Mr. Canosa conducted her delightful Nonet. Farrenc (1804-1875) was a virtuoso pianist and prolific composer as well as a faculty member at the Paris Conservatory for 30 years. The first movement, Adagio-Allegro, began with a single eloquent voice from oboist Margot Golding, leading into a pastoral section rich with harmonies of woodwinds and French horns. The symphony calls for a full orchestra, but size was rarely an issue in this ensemble, except during certain beautiful passages where the three cellos could have benefited from additional players for volume.

The horns introduced the Adagio Cantabile, out of which Kyle Beard's clarinet sang an exquisite theme. The unison strings built intensity while overall, the movement remained pastoral. Movement three was played as agitated and alive, with close harmonies of horn, flute, clarinet, oboe and bassoon, while the strings played pizzicato. The concluding Finale-Allegro was thrilling, with the conductor shaping the music to a lyrical mood before its close.

A reception allowed attendees to enjoy refreshments, see local art and mingle with the musicians.