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Opera
VERDI'S THEATRICAL LA TRAVIATA TRIUMPHS AT CINNABAR
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, June 19, 2022
Symphony
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Choral and Vocal
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Saturday, May 28, 2022
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Symphony
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by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 8, 2022
Chamber
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Chamber
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Recital
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by Gary Digman
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Symphony
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Choral and Vocal
A SPIRITUAL FAURE REQUIEM IN GOOD FRIDAY CANTIAMO CONCERT
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Friday, April 15, 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.