In Japanese, sakura means the five-petaled cherry blossom, and members of SAKURA Cello Quintet treated their Chamber Music Marin audience March 12 to a rare musical flowering. All but one of the eleven selections in the program were arrangements, not surprising because until SAKURA formed, finding original scores for an ensemble of five cellos was difficult.
Cellists Stella Cho, Michael Kaufman, Yoshika Masuda, Peter Myers and guest artist Nathan Chan, seated in a half-circle, ... more
Remarks from Conductor Alasdair Neale introduced Marin Symphony’s March 4 French-themed concert by extolling the “glittering orchestral colors” of Lili Boulanger’s D’un matin de printemps (Of a Morning in Spring), begun in 1917 as a duet for violin and piano and completed as an orchestral tone poem in 1918.
The younger sister of composer and Une Maîtresse Enseignante Nadia Boulanger, Lili was a prodigy nurtured by her musical family and their musician friends, who included Gabriel Faur... more
Per Nørgård scored one of my favorite films, “Babette’s Feast,” but on Feb. 12 I got to know Nørgård better.
In a Chamber Music Marin concert the Trio con Brio Copenhagen played the Danish composer’s mesmerizing 1973 composition Spell, 18 minutes of an astral journey that could have been modeled on the interior of an atom as it was conceived by Nørgård’s countryman, the physicist Niels Bohr, one hundred years ago.
Spell, originally written for clarinet, piano and cello, was r... more
Composer Matthew Rupert’s Cicadas, Op. 7, opening ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s “The Creation of the World” February 4 program at San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church, started so modestly that many in the half-full audience were unaware the concert had begun.
It certainly did, with a swelling buzz, like a hundred undulating high tension wires, and rose in volume as percussionists Christian Foster Howes and Cassandra Firmin, and Mr. Rupert’s piano, joined the audio recording with marimba,... more
American Bach Soloists, led by Jeffrey Thomas, performed six masterworks by Bach, Vivaldi and Telemann on February 3 in Tiburon’s St. Stephen’s Church.
Opening the famed ensemble’s 34th subscription season, the program was generously conceived and beautifully executed, and required five different set changes, which was a good thing, because without some down time the musical fare would all have been too all rich. Clearly, Mr. Thomas picked some of his very favorite pieces, bravura work... more
The James Dunn Theatre at the College of Marin rang with Christmas spirit Dec. 17 as the Marin Oratorio, directed by Paul Smith, performed Vivaldi’s Gloria and St. Saëns’ Oratorio de Noel, Op. 12. An audience of 260 mostly masked and vaxed attendees were also treated to an encore: the rousing Hallelujah chorus from Handel’s Messiah Oratorio.
Conducting from score, Mr. Smith, whose appreciation for his musicians and singers and infectious enthusiasm always communicates to the audience, ... more
Jubilant fanfares uncorked and capped Marin Symphony’s October 15 concert, the first Masterworks program of conductor Alasdair Neale’s final season with the orchestra.
The first fanfare, just three minutes long but sonorous and impactful, was Joan Tower’s Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman, Part One, which took its inspiration and instrumentation from Copland’s 1942 Fanfare for the Common Man. The second fanfare was triumphantly woven into the finale of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony.
Chamber Music Marin, formerly Mill Valley Chamber Music Society, inaugurated their 50th season October 2 with a stunning concert of Bach harpsichord concertos.
A stellar ensemble of musicians including Janine Johnson and Yuko Tanaka, harpsichords; Kati Kyme and Elizabeth Blumenstock, violins; violist David Bowes; cellist David Morse and Farley Pearce, contrabass, performed five of Bach’s keyboard concertos. This was a reprise of a 2017 program at the Berkeley Early Music Festival with a... more
The second of two performances by College of Marin’s music faculty members October 1, featured a satisfying balance of modern, folk and classical music, with a dose of poetry thrown in.
The concert in the College’s small hall opened with Cheryl Ziedrich’s charming “Five Poems by Mary Oliver in Piano Settings,” with Joe Paulino, voice, and Ms. Ziedrich at the piano. Mr. Paulino’s low, mellow readings and Ms. Ziedrich’s shining pianism were in dialogue, sometimes in excited conversation, ... more
The audience in San Jose’s Montgomery Theater September 18 were clearly fans, for when 2022 Cliburn gold medalist Yunchan Lim walked on stage he was greeted with a roar of applause, cheers and whistles. But the moment he sat to play, the capacity crowd settled into profound quiet. During the long program of Brahms, Mendelssohn and Liszt, sponsored by the Steinway Society of the Bay Area, there were no audible coughs, no throat-clearing, no shuffling in seats, and no bursts of spontaneous applaus... more
Stripped to the bone but rich with flavor, Contemporary Opera Marin’s program “It’s All About Mozart,” presented July 17 in the College of Marin’s James Dunn Theater, was positively alchemical. Two works for chamber opera ensemble were performed by four soloists, nine choristers and an orchestra of equal number on a bare stage with minimal lighting, few props, and costumes off the rack. That’s the pattern (along with free admission and parking) of many Contemporary Opera Marin productions, a no-... more
A wide contrast of era and mood characterized the first half of Marin Symphony’s stellar June 19 program in the Marin Center, opening with Jennifer Higdon’s transparent, cloud-light tone poem, blue cathedral, and ending with Stravinsky’s clashing, crashing Symphony in Three Movements.
Conductor Alasdair Neale’s introductory remarks alluded to this contrast, calling the Higdon “all soft focus” and the Stravinsky “a thrilling ride, angular and hard edges.” As sharp as the juxtaposition w... more
The Mill Valley Philharmonic, in its twenty-second year, continues to mature. Founded and nurtured by Laurie Cohen, the all-volunteer ensemble is thriving under the baton of Dana Sadava, Ms. Cohen’s successor. The orchestra performed two Russian masterworks May 14 - Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Opus 43, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s exotic Scheherazade from 1888.
As a young person recordings of these two masterworks wore deep grooves in my musical consciousness and their ric... more
Quartet San Francisco, the eclectic and adventuresome Bay Area chamber ensemble, knocked the socks off its March 27 Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience with their program of Latin and Tango music.
From the heated opening bars of Astor Piazzolla’s Libertango through Chick Corea’s ebullient Spain, the four players inspired collective euphoria. Chins bobbed and feet tapped. Whatever worries patrons brought with them to the Mt. Tamalpais Church were swept away by the beating pulse a... more
Before launching into the long-delayed, long-anticipated Masterworks III Marin Symphony program March 6, Conductor Alasdair Neale announced that in solidarity, the orchestra would play the Ukrainian National Anthem. Without being prompted to do so, the audience of 1200 sprang to its feet. National anthems are designed to stir the blood, and the Ukrainian anthem, in the context of the second tragic week of the Russian war on that nation, did just that.
The Horszowski Trio brought the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society’s near-capacity audience to its feet Feb. 27 with sensitive and beautifully balanced ensemble playing. The music performed, piano trios by Smetana, Rebecca Clarke, and Arno Babadjanian, span 100 years and three cultures. The governing idea behind their program was to explore ethnic consciousness in piano trios that are underperformed and deserving of more exposure. Each trio was written when its composer was in their early 30s, wh... more
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. 667 (the “Trout,” 1819) one of the most frequently performed works in the chamber repertoire.
This is the 49th season of the Society, and after the enforced hiatus due to the pandemic, outg... more
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 Linda program featured violinist Joseph Edelberg; Jesse Barrett, oboe; flutist Stacey Pelinka; Rebecca Roudman, cello; Ms. Prior and guest artist harpist Chloe Tula. All but Ms. Tula are Santa R... more
ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s first concert in a year and a half, “A Musical Promenade,” was a promenade indeed. When patrons arrived at San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for the 6:00 performance July 10, they were funneled through the garden to the Duncan Hall patio, where folding chairs were set up helter-skelter for the first part of the program.
Knowing this would challenge some audience members, flutist Carol Adee, ECHO ebullient personnel manager, promised popsicles for all who ... more
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music.
The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween. Ghosts, pumpkins and clutches of bright fall leaves adorned SRS Principal Violist Elizabeth Prior’s San Rafael back yard. Since summer, she has hosted small open-air concerts, a rarity these ... more
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society board encouraged the audience to spread out and suspended their practice of offering refreshments at intermission.
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. The clear, balanced acoustics of Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church were ideal for this intimate music.
Their program opened with de Falla’s Siete Canciones Populares Españolas, written in 1914 fo... more
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals.
It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and performed by ECHO percussionists Christian Foster Howes and Alapaki Yee. Mr. Yee explained from the stage that "Kaizen" is a Japanese term “about the small, consistent changes we go through in our... more
The Gould Piano Trio, founded 28 years ago by violinist Lucy Gould, has been one of the UK’s most prestigious ensembles. Its January 26 performance in Mill Valley Chamber Music Society’s series demonstrated how richly they deserve that reputation. The concert, held at the Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church, featured three demanding works, all of which were stunningly performed.
Members of the Trio: Lucy Gould, violin; Benjamin Frith, piano; and cellist Richard Lester, with clarinetist Rober... more
Excitement was palpable in the Marin Civic Center Auditorium Jan. 25 as the Marin Symphony in splendid full force took the stage for a richly textured Masterworks II program. Prevented from giving its first Masterworks offering by the wildfire-caused blackouts last October, the orchestra returned with great energy.
Missy Mazzoli’s “These Worlds in Us,” written 2006, a shining nine-minute tone poem scored for full orchestra plus two melodicas (related to the harmonica and accordion), op... more
Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Op. 131, called “unparalleled in its inexhaustibility” by critic Thomas May, is a daunting challenge. Orchestral in concept, filled with wit and charm, melancholy and fury, it almost overwhelms listeners. Playing the frenetic Scherzo, a violinist once commented, was “like galloping through hell.” But the piece is sublime, and the Telegraph Quartet, performing it Nov. 10 at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church for the Mill Valley Chamber Music... more
ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s season opening concert Sept. 22 featured an ambitious program of four works, ranging from 1815 to the very present. Performed in the graceful high-vaulted First Presbyterian Church of San Anselmo, the concert engaged rapt attention of the 70 attending. Conducted by Daniel Canosa, ECHO presents a single performance at each program and draws between 25 and 52 musicians from around the Bay Area, and the ensemble’s musical scope is far-reaching.
Mozart’s enchanting Overture to his opera The Magic Flute, a miniature tapestry of gems from the 1791 work, opened the Marin Symphony’s final concert of the 2018-2019 season. Under conductor Alasdair Neale, the playing of the sprightly seven-minute piece by a reduced-size classical ensemble sparkled like crystal.
It was Mozart’s practice to compose an overture after completing the respective opera score, so the piece contains intimations of all that is to come: evocation of earth and s... more
Violinist Gil Shaham may be the most modest virtuoso on the concert stage today, and it is the great music he most wishes to put forward, never himself. Generosity, a quality he is known for, was abundantly clear in Weill Hall April 26 when he performed, with pianist Akira Eguchi, a generous program spanning four centuries of music.
The duo opened the program with Kreisler’s exhilarating Praeludium and Allegro. The piece, which Kreisler pretended for years was by the Baroque composer Ga... more
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies together, they shared exquisite music to an appreciative audience of 900.
One pleasure of hearing two master musicians is that there are seemingly few barriers to what they can do. The musical ... more
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, performed by the Fauré Quartett from Germany in Mill Valley Chamber Music Society’s season closer at the Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church.
The Fauré (Dirk Mommertz, piano; Erika Geldsetzer, violin; S... more
A big portion of the capacity audience in Weill Hall February 8th came to hear violinist Joshua Bell’s virtuosity, and were treated as well to splendid playing from Sam Haywood, Mr. Bell’s regular pianist since 2010. The duo performed three engaging sonatas, highlighted by Mr. Bell’s sterling technique, precise intonation and powerful thematic projection. An easy rapport between the two was a joy to hear and observe.
Beethoven’s enigmatic fourth Sonata 4 in A minor, Op. 23, opened the ... more
The Marin Symphony’s second Masterworks concert of the 2018-19 season featured works by John Adams, Sibelius and Brahms, a masterful assembly. In a spoken introduction before the program’s first half, conductor Alasdair Neale primed the audience for the “terra incognita” of Adams’ The Chairman Dances and Sibelius’ Symphony No. 7. The more familiar Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 occupied the entire second half, with soloist Orion Weiss.
The Chairman Dances was composed in the 1980s while A... more
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and gratified.
His program began tenderly with the opening bars of Chopin’s F Major Ballade No. 2, Op. 38, contrasting gentle passages with thunderous outbursts to evoke manifold emotions. Then h... more