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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
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
CHORAL AND VOCAL REVIEW

Agave Baroque Ensemble

COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT

by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020

Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this remarkable family.

The telling commenced with a short lecture, presented with a great flair for humor by Henry Lebedinsky, as he told how the Bach family’s musical journey commenced with a refugee fiddler to Germany’s Thuringia, then Johann Christoph, Johann Michael (whose daughter Maria Barbara married Johann Sebastian) and on to Wilhelm Friedemann and Carl Phillip Emmanuel. The family tree is complex and fascinating, with important ties to Frederick the Great, Telemann, eventually even Mendelssohn and Schumann.

The Bachs, in more than five generations, created great works spanning German, Italian and new cosmopolitan musical styles. The giant figure of Johann Sebastian towers over all but he evolved and flourished in an environment shaped by those before him and continued to color the history of music through his gifted sons and their achievements.

Following the talk, the audience of 200 in Schroeder Hall waited with anticipation to hear Agave with their Baroque ensemble. Instead, lights dimmed and the awe inspiring tones of the pipe organ filled the hall with the E Flat Prelude and Fugue by Johann Christoph. This music was emotional, monumental and often tortured in its chromatic and dissonant complexity. This was a shocking and terrifying musical experience and gave context to J.S. Bach's organ works that followed generations later. The explosion of organ energy was followed by the members of Agave performing Johann Michael Bach’s Sonata and Capriccio a 4. This was a welcome contrast, with its sweet sounds being passed from one instrument to another, music of beauty and depth. Detailed phrasing by all the musicians, with the subtle tone colors of the variety of strings, was delightful. Johann Sebastian’s violin sonata with continuo featured an intricate and intelligently moving violin performance by Aaron Westman and exciting cello lines from William Skeen, beautiful string accompaniment by Kevin Cooper’s theorbo, and the magnificent harpsichord playing of Mr. Lebedinsky. The musical cameraderie pervading this Sonata was always evident, whether in sprightly dance rhythms, touching melodic lines or complex fugal worlds.

Next, Johann Christoph Friedrich’s Sonata in A brought a change of style, Italian Gallant, and featured lyrical viola and harpsichord duets. It is worth noting that Mr. Westman and Anna Washburn switched their violin and viola instruments frequently in this program, each contributing their individual mastery and tone qualities while playing with great attentiveness to the other’s parts. Completing the first half of the concert was Ouverture-Suite in G minor by Johann Bernhard Bach. Here we heard the French style with its pomp and formality. This composer was a student of Telemann and was immersed in the transitional styles of the period.

Following intermission the program consisted of two more extended works. First came. Bach’s Trio Sonata from the his Musical Offering. This work in four movements is one of Bach’s last and greatest achievements. There were introductory remarks about Johann Sebastian visiting his son C.P.E. Bach at the court of Frederick the Great and how the Musical Offering came about. Sensitive canons, complex counterpoint and harmony and even some of the “new” styles were included. Anchored by Mr. Skeen’s cello, the ensemble soared.

The concluding work was Trio Sonata in A minor by J.S. Bach’s eldest son Wilhelm Friedemann Bach. Much of his work was lost, so it was another gift of this concert to hear such a seldom performed composer. The composition was in five sections, a structure called cruciform, with symmetrical movements and a canonical middle movement.

There was much applause, then a standing ovation and bravos rewarded the Agave ensemble. In addition to introducing their instruments to the audience with interesting anecdotes, including Mr. Cooper’s baroque guitar, an encore was presented. This was a Bach pedagogical work, his role as teacher exemplified, where Bach had assigned a bass line from a violin sonata to one of his unnamed sons as a composition exercise.