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Recital
DYNAMIC PIANISM IN YAKUSHEV MARIN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 23, 2022
Russian pianist Ilya Yakushev arrived Jan. 23 at his Mill Valley Chamber Music Society recital with the repute of playing loud and fast and delivering charming introductory musical remarks to his audience. He was true to form in Mill Valley’s Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church, preceding Haydn’s sple
Symphony
THE SHOW MUST GO ON
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 9, 2022
The Jan. 9 Santa Rosa Symphony concert was supposed to feature the world premiere of Gabriella Smith’s first symphony, but it ended up featuring another type of premiere: a concert that was conceived, rehearsed and performed in less than eight hours. Symphony staff learned on Sunday morning that so
Choral and Vocal
AN OLD FRIEND RETURNS TO WEILL IN STERLING ABS MESSIAH PERFORMANCE
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Sunday, December 19, 2021
A tremendous accomplishment by the American Bach Soloists Dec. 19 was near perfect performance of Handel's Messiah in Weill Hall. Long an annual tradition at San Francisco's Grace Cathedral, the ABS took to the road and delivered a Christmas gift of epic proportions to an obviously thrilled and enth
Symphony
SHOSTAKOVICH FIFTH THUNDERS AT WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 5, 2021
In a new season marketed as “Classical Reunion,” the Santa Rosa Symphony made a palpable connection with its audience at the early December set of three standing ovation concerts in Weill Hall. The December 5 concert, with 1,000 attending, is reviewed here. Vaughan Williams’ popular Fantasia on a T
Chamber
THE LINCOLN RETURNS WITH CLARKE'S PUNGENT TRIO
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, November 18, 2021
There were many familiar faces Nov. 18 during Music at Oakmont’s initial concert of the season, but perhaps the most necessary were the three musicians of the Lincoln Piano Trio, the Chicago-based group that has performed often in Oakmont since 2006. A smaller than unusual audience in Berger Audito
Symphony
NOSTALGIC BARBER KNOXVILLE AT SO CO PHIL JACKSON THEATER CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 14, 2021
In their first Jackson Theater appearance of the new season the Sonoma County Philharmonic presented Nov. 14 a program devoid of novelty, but showcasing the “People’s Orchestra” in splendid performance condition after a long COVID-related layoff. Conductor Norman Gamboa drew a committed and boister
Chamber
THRILLING PIANO QUINTETS IN MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 14, 2021
The Mill Valley Chamber Music Society sprang back to life on November 14 when a stellar ensemble from the Manhattan Chamber Players, a New York-based collective, arrived to perform two piano quintets: Vaughn-Williams’ in C Minor (1903), little known and rarely performed; and Schubert’s in A Major D.
Chamber
MUSCULAR BRAHMS FROM IVES COLLECTIVE IN GLASER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 14, 2021
Leaving SRJC’s Newman Auditorium for the first time in decades, the College’s Chamber Concert Series presented a season-opening concert Nov. 14 in Santa Rosa’s Glaser Center with the four-musician Bay-Area based Ives Collective. The season, the first given since 2020, is dedicated to Series Founder
Symphony
MONUMENTAL BRAHMS SYMPHONY HIGHLIGHTS MARIN SYMPHONY RETURN
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 7, 2021
In the waning COVID pandemic the Marin Symphony is one of the last Bay Area orchestras to return to the stage, and they did with considerable fanfare Nov. 7 before 1,200 in Civic Center Auditorium, with resident conductor Alasdair Neale leading a demanding concert of Brahms, Schumann and New York-ba
Symphony
APOLLO'S FIRE LIGHTS UP VIVALDI'S FOUR SEASONS IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 30, 2021
Long ago the Canadian violin virtuoso Gil Shaham played a program in Weill Hall of solo Bach, with a visual backdrop of slowly developing visuals, such as a pokey flower opening over four minutes. The Bach was sensational, and some in the audience liked the photos but many found them disconcerting,
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.