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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

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.