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Recital
HEROIC LIM PERFORMANCE AT STEINWAY SOCIETY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, September 18, 2022
Chamber
SURPRISING IVES TRIO AND SONGS AT VMMF'S HANNA CENTER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 24, 2022
Chamber
SEMINAL SCHUBERT CYCLE PERFORMANCE FROM STEGALL-ZIVIAN AT VMMF
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, July 23, 2022
Opera
MARIN'S STRIPPED-DOWN OPERA CHARMS
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 17, 2022
Chamber
MOZART AND BRAHMS AN AUSPICIOUS COUPLE AT VMMF FESTIVAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 17, 2022
Chamber
CLARINIST HOEPRICH'S VIRTUOSITY IN VMMF OPENING CONCERT
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, July 16, 2022
Recital
AGGRESSIVE PIANISM IN MYER'S MENDO FESTIVAL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 14, 2022
Opera
SONOROUS WAGNER GALA AND CAPACITY CROWD AT VALLEJO'S EMPRESS
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, July 9, 2022
Choral and Vocal
TRAVELING CHORISTERS SO CO DEBUT IN TWO BIG CANTATAS
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, June 25, 2022
Opera
VERDI'S THEATRICAL LA TRAVIATA TRIUMPHS AT CINNABAR
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, June 19, 2022
CHAMBER REVIEW
Devon House Garden Concerts / Thursday, October 22, 2020
Barbara Riccardi and Maki Ishii Sowash, violin; Vicki Ehrlich, cello; Paul Ehrlich, viola

Violist Paul Ehrlich

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 Orchestra string players presented two splendid quartets Oct. 22 in the garden of Marin virtuoso violist Elizabeth Prior. Ms. Prior made the introductions to 20 attendees and the sunny afternoon began with Haydn’s D Major Quartet from his Op. 20 “Sun” series of six works.

This wonderful piece from 1772 received a cogent reading, the attacks and releases exact and the phrase interplay demonstrating the performer’s mutual stylistic familiarity. First violinist Barbara Riccardi played sparkling cascades of notes in the opening Allegro with the players emphasizing Haydn’s adventuresome harmonies. The long following Adagio affettuoso had Vicki Ehrlich playing in the cello’s high register, while violist Paul Ehrlich was in the bass. Ms. Ehrlich's cello sonority, though she was situated no closer to listeners than the other three instrumentalists, often carried above them.

The final two movements were performed in lighter weight, the first in a gypsy character and the last quite fast and sprinkled with the composer’s fastidious humor and contrasts in volume. A perfect beginning to the afternoon.

Beethoven’s Adagio from his E-Flat Major Quartet, Op. 127, was a late program addition, and was played through its five free variations in a rich tapestry of mostly somber but lyrical sound. Occasional bits of warmth shone through in this lofty music, played with sentiment but never with sentimentality.

Violinist Maki Ishii changed chairs with Ms. Riccardi for the final work, Mendelssohn’s last Quartet in F Minor. Op. 80. It’s an impassioned composition in four movements with driving rhythms and occasional musical anger. Here the Opera musicians gave an aggressive reading with sustained long-held notes, spiccato bowing, dissonances in the second movement Allegro assai, and only a short respite in the elegiac Adagio. Ms. Ehrlich and Ms. Ishii played the themes expressively, akin to the composer’s Songs Without Words for piano.

In the finale (Allegro) the Quartet kept tight control of the drama, including loud outbursts of sound and seeming emotional anxiety without relief.

One encore came, clearly familiar to string musicians in the SF Opera, Offenbach’s iconic Barcarolle from his 1881 Opera The Tales of Hoffmann. The playing was in every way “Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour,” with ample pizzicato and Mr. Ehrlich’s poetic statement of the famous theme.