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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
SPARKLING WIND, STRING, HARP MUSIC AT DEVON HOUSE GARDEN CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, October 9, 2021
Take a mild autumn evening, a garden gazebo with patterned rugs and lit with soft bulbs, shake in a fine chamber ensemble, add a rising new moon, and you have a recipe for the musical delight that violist Elizabeth Prior presented Oct. 9 in her Devon House Garden Concert series. The Marin Terra Li
Recital
AUTHORITATIVE BEETHOVEN SONATA IN KLEIN'S OCCIDENTAL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, October 8, 2021
People attending the first Redwood Arts Council Occidental concert in 20 months found a surprise – a luxurious new lobby attached to the Performing Arts Center. It was a welcome bonus to a recital given by pianist Andreas Klein where the music seemed almost as familiar as was the long shuttered hal
Symphony
MOVIE MUSIC ON THE WINDSOR GREEN IN SO CO PHIL SEASON OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 3, 2021
People approaching the Windsor Green bandstand Oct. 3 for the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s season opening concert had some cause for concern. After 18 months of silence would the all-volunteer orchestra have enough musicians for a big movie music program? After all, performers can move, retire, or
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY RETURNS IN TRIUMPH
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 3, 2021
It is often the case that a single piece or performer steals the show at a symphony concert, but at the Oct. 3 performance of the Santa Rosa Symphony, the show itself stole the show. The concert opened with a serene 1982 tone poem by Libby Larsen, followed by a masterful performance by soloist Julia
Symphony
TWO WIND SOLOISTS CHARM AT SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 26, 2021
The house of music has many rooms. That dusty adage was never truer than when Weill Hall Sept. 25 hosted a roaring New Orleans-style musical party, and less than a day later a mostly sedate Sonoma State University student orchestra performance. Before a crowd of 200 conductor Alexander Kahn led a
CHAMBER REVIEW
Mendocino Music Festival / Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Alexander String Quartet

Alexander String Quartet - 2021

EXEMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MENDO FESTIVAL FT. BRAGG CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Faced with the impossibility of presenting concerts in the iconic large white tent on the bluff, the Mendocino Music Festival opted to use Ft. Bragg’s Cotton Auditorium for ten events in the abbreviated 35th season. San Francisco’s Alexander String Quartet played July 21 to a fully masked audience of 240, seats separated, and proof of vaccination required to enter the hall.

These small inconveniences were of course unimportant, as the ASQ gave their usual polished and convincing interpretations of Haydn, Shostakovich and Ravel Quartets. I have heard them since 1991, always playing artistically and this time using a stage shell and amplification from an excellent Festival sound system. Reverberation was balanced, never harsh or boomy.

Haydn’s C Major Quartet (Op. 54) comes from a set of three, and the opening Vivace received a lively reading with violinist Zacharias Grafilo’s singing top notes a delight. The brooding Adagio had splendid low register playing in all four instruments, and throughout the evening the sound system favored Sandy Wilson’s cello sonority. In the finale, a surprising mostly slow concluding movement, the themes were played nobly by Mr. Grafilo with the second violin (Frederick Lifsitz) and viola (David Samuel) in throbbing repeated-note support. A masterful work, played marvelously.

Announcements from the stage noted that August 1 would be the ASQ’s 40th anniversary, and
this concert would be the formal debut of newly minted member Mr. Samuel. Long-time violist Paul Yarbrough has retired.

Shostakovich’s shortest Quartet followed, the F-Sharp Minor from Op. 108, and was full of excellent solo playing. Long pizzicatos and introspective phrasing characterized the Allegretto, and the viola and cello lines were linked in the Lento at the octave, making an eerie sonic fabric. Motives were short. Wild fugal playing was heard in the finale, intense and convincing. A masterwork from 1960, performed masterfully.

A more popular masterwork, Ravel’s F Major Quartet, closed the program, and is a specialty of the Alexander. From 1904 and reflecting the Debussy Quartet, the ASQ’s reading of the Ravel gave the opening melody a warm richness. The pizzicato playing in the Assez vif – très doux was flawless, as was the trill and temolo playing. The rhapsodic slow movement (Très lent) had many subtle tempo changes, and the vigorous Vif et agité was a fast romp with many contrasting themes and a fanciful replaying of the work’s opening theme.

Applause was generous and surprisingly an encore was offered, Mr. Grafilo’s transcription for quartet of Shostakovich’s first Prelude and Fugue from his 1951 Op. 87. It was fetching playing, mostly slow and rich in instrumental color and charm. Perhaps there are more of these exemplary transcriptions?