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GAULIST FLAVOR IN FINAL SF PIANO FESTIVAL CONCERT AT OLD FIRST
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, August 29, 2021
Final summer music festival programs are often a mix of what has come before, with the theme and even a featured composer taking a last stage appearance, with a dramatic wrap up composition. San Francisco’s International Piano Festival defied the norm August 29 with an eclectic French-flavored prog
SPARE DUO PRECEDES MYSTEROUS DUO AT DEN BOER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, August 27, 2021
In a departure from usual summer festival fare Julia Den Boer played an August 27 virtual recital in the San Francisco Piano Festival’s 4.5 season with four works, all mostly quiet but all in separate ways insistently demanding of artist and listener. Throughout the 40 minutes there was nary a powe
HARMONIC COMPLEXITY IN PHILLIPS' ALL-GRIFFES RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, August 20, 2021
Charles Griffes’ piano music is similar to that of Busoni, Reger and even Poulenc, in that there is a sporadic flourish of interest with concerts and scholarly work, then a quick fade into another long period of obscurity. So, it was a delight to have an all-Griffes recital August 20 on the San F
Chamber
ONE PIANO, TWO PIANO, THREE PIANO, FORE
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 29, 2021
Schroeder Hall was nearly full July 29 for the final pianoSonoma concert of their season, and presumably the draw and highlight for many of the 150 attending was Bach’s Concerto for Four Pianos. And that performance was probably going to be a North Bay premiere. However, it wasn’t the highl
Chamber
PENULTIMATE VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT FEATURES GORGEOUS VOCALISM
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Thursday, July 29, 2021
The 2021 Valley of the Moon Music Festival continued on July 29 with a sumptuous online offering of French songs, concluding with the second piano quartet by Fauré, Op. 45. Such a beautiful bouquet of video performances wonderfully filmed and recorded softened the disappointment of not being able to
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SIX GUITARISTS IN UNIQUE NAPA RECITAL
by Gary Digman
Sunday, July 25, 2021
The first Napa Valley Guitar Festival was held at Napa’s First Presbyterian Church July 25, and featured performances from six classical guitarists. The Church is an iconic structure in downtown Napa, its huge white presence dominating the scene, and the white theme continues inside punctuated by be
Chamber
BOGAS' TENURE ENDS IN OUTDOOR GUALALA CHAMBER CONCERT
by Iris Lorenzfife
Sunday, July 25, 2021
The preconcert call that music lovers should gather at Gualala Arts July 25 to attend the final Roy Bogas and Friends Concert was not quite as dire as it sounded. It seems that a year of Covid 19 and an 88th birthday had combined to convince Mr. Bogas that he was working too hard. But with cellist P
Chamber
CLARA SCHUMANN TRIO COMMANDS VOM CHAMBER MUSIC CONCERT AT HANNA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 24, 2021
The Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Series has begun several virtual and a few live concerts in its new seventh season, some broadcast from Sonoma’s Hanna Center Hall and some in posh local venues. July 24’s video had a small live audience and a well-produced video program of three works. Titled “
Chamber
RARE LANG SONGS SPARKLE AT VOM FESTIVAL VIDEO RECITAL
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Unexpected pleasures are often the best. Valley of the Moon Chamber Festival presented a such a pleasure last week-a July 21 recorded performance by tenor Kyle Stegall and pianist Eric Zivian in another mini-recital (very mini-just 15 minutes!) of six songs by the nineteenth century German composer
Chamber
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
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?