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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
Piano Sonoma / Thursday, July 29, 2021
Michael Shinn, Jessica Shinn, Christina Wu and Peter Dugan, Piano; Anita Graef, cello

l to r: T. Cabaniss, M. and J. Shinn

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 highlight, that honor going to another premiere, the world premiere of Thomas Cabaniss’ Suite for Two Pianos, “Trinity Pass.” Each of the four sections was preceded by a segment of the composer’s own poetry, read at stage left by Kara Dugan, and played by pianists Jessica and Michael Shinn. The initial movement “Swoop” was tonal, as was the work throughout, with occasional Lisztian rumblings. “Brooms” had a faintly oriental character with busy fusillades of notes from both instruments, a Forte march and an occasional Fermata respite.

The more lyrical “Games of Catch” came next, played with judicious tempos, odd echoes of minimalist music, and exuberant sections combining a mélange of compositional ideas. The finale (“Cathedral Ceiling”) had a slow introduction that jumped into a toccata part, slightly heroic in places, with several short points of rest in the score. The off-beat majestic accents were telling, sometimes dissonant, and the Shinns were equal partners in the unique celebration of sound.

“Trinity Pass” was a champagne orgy of color in rich piano sound, and at the finish of loud tremolos from both instruments bravos broke forth, and Mr. Cabaniss was called from the back of the hall to accept an ovation.

What could safely follow such a dynamic opening? An atmospheric Takemitsu work, Rain Tree Sketch, performed by pianist Christine Wu, and she had recently splendidly played on the same stage Chopin’s Op. 17 Mazurkas. Rain Tree was written memory of Messiaen, and there were references to the French master’s music, especially the 1944 Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant Jésus. Ms. Wu’s playing caught the languorous nature of the music and used a lot of airy pedal point.

Three sections of Saint-Saëns’ Carnaval of the Animals featured cellist Anita Graef joining the Shinns, the extravagant sounds of “Kangaroos” and “Wild Donkeys” preceding the iconic “The Swan," with the cello joining in. Ms. Graef’s intonation and careful phrasing were good, but her lightweight projection was often covered by the pianos. Swan never fails with an audience, and did not here.

Milhaud’s 1937 Scaramouche for two pianos is another crowd pleaser, and the composer was for decades well known in the SF Bay area at Mills College, and for his three-hour plus Opera “Christophe Colomb” and a remark that Brahms was an overrated composer. Ms. Wu and Peter Dugan gave the work a rollicking ride, loud, pushing the tempos with a brittle blur of sound that perhaps is appropriate. The samba at the end was played as a brilliant dance.

What happened to the seminal Bach, the A Minor Concerto (BWV 1065)? It closed the program, and featured four pianists (the Shinns, Ms. Wu and Mr. Dugan) and four string players: cellists Ms. Graef and Michael Dahlberg; Julian Graef (viola) and violinist Doori Na. I can only recall one long ago multi piano concerto performance in Sonoma County, with Norma and Corrick Brown joining San Francisco virtuoso William Corbett-Jones and the Santa Rosa Symphony, but that was Mozart, the K. 242 Concerto. Corrick conducted from the piano, but here there was no conductor and it was clear from the fast opening tempo that the concert Yamahas would overwhelm the string players. They were seen with busy bows but not heard.

It was nearly 13 minutes of sonorous counterpoint, the outer movements often indistinct at instrument entries, and leavened by the wonderful Largo that at times was played without any strings but with choice modulations. The tempo in the concluding Allegro looked like it would push the music off the rails, but it never did, and finished with a roar of applause in a standing ovation.

Mr. Shinn mentioned that pianoSonoma would return to the Green Music Center in 2022, and thanked the Green’s staff and Executive Director Jacob Yarrow for stellar support. In his plentiful appreciation remarks he forgot to mention the hard work of Festival piano technicians, Will Reed (primo) and his colleague Larry Lobel (segundo) that crafted four instruments into a mighty one for Bach’s enthralling concerto.