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Chamber
THREE SONG CYCLES HIGHLIGHT VIBRANT SLV RECITAL
by Pamela Hicks-Gailey
Wednesday, May 08, 2019
An ambitious recital of vocal and piano music was presented May 8 at Santa Rosaís Spring Lake Village by mezzo-soprano Kindra Scharich and pianist Jeffrey LaDeur. The duo engaged the enthusiastic audience with scholarly friendliness and artistry in performances of Beethoven's short cycle of six song...
Symphony
ALEXANDER TORADZE DELIVERS A LESSON IN SERENITY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 05, 2019
An entire concerto movement consisting of serene piano melodies over a soothing backdrop is probably not the first thing that springs to mind when seeing Shostakovichís name on an orchestra program, but thatís exactly what pianist Alexander Toradze delivered--twice--at Sundayís Santa Rosa Symphony c...
Symphony
MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON CLOSES WITH AUTUMNAL ELGAR AND THEATRICAL BEETHOVEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, April 28, 2019
Mozartís enchanting Overture to his opera The Magic Flute, a miniature tapestry of gems from the 1791 work, opened the Marin Symphonyís 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...
Recital
SHAHAM-EGUCHI DUO'S EXCITING MUSICAL GENEROSITY IN WEILL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, April 26, 2019
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...
Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint SaŽns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestraís new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasserís Sonoma Overt...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
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 to...
Chamber
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
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, perfor...
CHORAL AND VOCAL REVIEW

Tenor Derek Chester

BACH SOLOSITS PERFORM A 400-YEAR OLD MASTERPIECE IN BELVEDERE

by Joanna Bramel Young
Friday, January 29, 2010

The American Bach Soloists celebrated Jan. 29 the four-hundredth anniversary of Monteverdiís towering Vespero della Beata Vergine (1610) at St. Stephenís Church in Belvedere. It was a stunning performance. Conductor Jeffrey Thomas presided over a stellar collection of singers and instrumentalists brought from all over the United States, including soloists tenor Derek Chester, and sopranos Jennifer Ellis and Abigail Haynes Lennox. They were supported by a superb group of soloists and a chorus of 17.

The Monteverdi Vespers do not exist as a single manuscript, but similar to Bachís B minor Mass (written a hundred and twenty years later) it is a demonstration of the composerís mastery of many different styles, both early and contemporary. Psalms, motets, sonatas and hymns make up the Vespers, and Gregorian chant is combined with newer forms, creating wonderful contrasts of sound.

The opening Versicle and Response enveloped the audience in layer upon layer of sound from the 14-person orchestra and chorus, and Mr. Thomasí deep knowledge of the work gave him the ability to draw both subtleties and the rich sonorities to bring out the sheer majesty of Monteverdi. The orchestra was divided in half between winds (the cornetti and trombones) on one side, and the strings on the other. The cornetto, a Renaissance instrument long out of use, has a mouthpiece similar to that of a trumpet, but is made of wood and covered with leather. It has a softer sound than the trumpet, and blends beautifully with the human voice. Between the winds and strings were the continuo instruments, the most unusual of which was the theorbo, a large lute with bass strings eight feet long, and organ and harpsichord.

In the Laudate pueri the two soprano soloists, with their pure, clear voices, were echoed by the male sextet. These achingly sweet soprano voices blended beautifully in great ascending and descending suspensions. The Gloria Patri, following the Laudate , quickly changing the mood with a lilting 6/8 dance-like rhythm, finally ended in a long, melismatic Amen. Sometimes the vocalists sang with just the plucked instruments, other times with the entire orchestra. Every now and then the lowest note in the orchestra, played by the great theorbo, could be heard at the end of a section. During the Motet Audi coelum, Mr. Chester demonstrated the beauty and flexibility of his voice with virtuosic ornamentation. He and countertenor Jesse Antin echoed each other throughout the verse.

After intermission the Magnificat completed the program and is the final part of the Vespers, composed of a Magnificat, a Sonata and Hymn. The closing Hymn was full of variety, with interludes where instruments and singers combined in many different tempos and moods. The great Amen at the conclusion of the Vespers had the entire chorus and orchestra in full force, but finally concluded in the most extraordinary diminuendo this reviewer has ever heard: voices and instruments were slowly transported from forte down to complete silence on the last long note. The large audience was transfixed.

After the concert this reviewer talked to a member of the orchestra who mentioned that one of his fellow players was scheduled to perform 23 Monteverdi Vespers during the year. A musician friend is scheduled to play 17. Clearly this is testimony to the popularity of this monumental work.