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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...
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.