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Chamber
FROTHY CHAMBER WORKS CONCLUDE VALLEY OF THE MOON FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, August 02, 2015
A closing concert for a summer music festival, even a new series such as the Valley of the Moon Music Festival (VMMF), should be a capstone for the series. The recent Chamberfest Concerts at the Green Music Center, with all six Bach Brandenburgs as the finale, are an example. Artists at the Festiv...
Recital
MYER'S MENDO FESTIVAL RECITAL SPOTLIGHTS MOZART TO BALCOM
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Completing the Mendocino Music Festival’s piano series July 22 was an energetic recital by returning Festival artist Spencer Myer. The nearly full Preston Hall audience was treated to a program, announced from the piano, that had broad musical appeal and panache. Exploring the Festival’s Mozart t...
Symphony
MOZART'S GENIUS UPSTAGES DIVA, YOUTH AND CONDUCTOR IN STERLING MMF CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Mendocino’s eclectic Music Festival gave a strong imprimatur to the Mozart theme July 22 with a radiant orchestral and vocal concert in the big white tent on the Mendocino headlands. The Overture from “The Abduction from the Seraglio” (K. 384) opened the concert in an adroit reading that was...
Chamber
CLARINET MUSIC LAUNCHES NEW FESTIVAL IN SONOMA VALLEY
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 19, 2015
Among the several North Coast summer festivals in 2015 is a new one, the Valley of the Moon Music Festival, directed by San Francisco-area artists Tanya Tomkins and Eric Zivian. It’s unique in presenting seven concerts of the Classical and Romantic eras with instruments designed and mostly built wh...
Opera
OPERA BUFFA HI JINX IN ROSSINI'S BARBER AT MENDO FESTIVAL
by Ken Bullock
Friday, July 17, 2015
During his July 17 lecture before the sole Mendocino Music Festival performance of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, stage director Eugene Brancoveanu spoke of Commedia Dell’Arte. Mr. Brancoveanu, who sang the baritone title role of Figaro, alluded to the stylized clowning that is sometimes p...
Recital
ELEGANT SCRIABIN, CHOPIN AND GRANADOS IN MENDO FESTIVAL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 16, 2015
Taiwanese pianist Ching-Yun Hu made a formidable Mendocino Music Festival debut recital July 16 in Mendocino’s Preston Hall. A full house warmly greeted the diminutive artist, and she responded with a pensive and then dramatic performance of Scriabin’s Sonata Fantasy, Op. 19. Writers refer to thi...
Symphony
SPLASHY RUSSIAN MUSIC IN MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 11, 2015
Summer music festivals season tend to be launched each season with a sparkling audience-pleasing program, and the 29th Mendocino Music Festival opening concert was no exception July 11 with an all-Russian program in the big white tent concert hall on Mendocino’s breezy bluff. Conducted by Artistic ...
Recital
FRENCH ROMANTIC ORGAN MUSIC IN NUMINA RECITAL
by James Harrod
Friday, July 10, 2015
Etienne Walhain played a magical recital July 10 of organ music of Bach, Scarlatti and Franck. Displaying total command of the Church of the Incarnation’s Casavant instrument under his hands and feet, Mr. Walhain performed his program from memory with breath taking speed, accuracy, and clean articul...
Symphony
BRANDENBURGS A SPIRITUAL GIFT IN FINAL CHAMBERFEST CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, June 28, 2015
“Well, you should have been there.” A trite saying used too often by concertgoers? Sure. But surely it was the appropriate adage for the final Chamberfest concert June 28 in Sonoma State’s Weill Hall. Capping a nine-event series mostly in Schroeder Hall, Jeffrey Kahane led ensembles of up to 20 ...
Recital
TWO EXEMPLARY ORGAN RECITALS HIGHLIGHT CHAMBERFEST
by James Harrod
Sunday, June 28, 2015
Baroque music aficionados and organists were glued to their seats at Chamberfest’s June 27 and 28 when Malcolm Matthews performed two amazingly perfect recitals of Baroque organ music from North Europe of the 16th and 17th centuries. The two prodigious concerts included no less than 17 selections,...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Marin Symphony / Tuesday, March 06, 2012
Alasdair Neale, conductor, Jeremy Constant, violin; Robin Sutherland, harpsichord

Harpsichordist Robin Sutherland

BACH AND PART PAIR PERFECTLY IN MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT

by John Metz
Tuesday, March 06, 2012

High Baroque composer J. S. Bach and minimalist Estonian composer Arvo Pärt aren’t such an unlikely pair, and the Marin Symphony played to this connection in their most recent program at the Marin Center.

The evening started with the first of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerti. Like in the other Brandenburgs, the full orchestra performs in interplay with the featured concertino group. The concertante in the first Brandenburg consists of two horns, three oboes, a bassoon, and violin, though the horns are perhaps featured the most. And this is quite the showpiece for them. Horns in Bach’s time were valveless, which limited their range, especially in the lower register. Thus, these parts are written in a rather high tessitura. Playing in this range for the full duration of the concerto can be exhausting for players of the modern horn. And yes, this evening’s horn players certainly faced their challenges, but in the end gave a worthy performance – especially in the minuet finale, which also contained some lovely playing from the oboes and bassoons.

Juxtaposed between the first and third Brandenburg Concerti was Arvo Pärt’s famous Frates, arranged by the composer himself for solo violin, string orchestra, and percussion. Concertmaster Jeremy Constant was the evening’s soloist, and his solo introduction was raw, bold, and unhindered, even if not technically perfect. This lead to the main body of the work, which is more meditative, consisting of a singular sustained bass note, supporting the orchestra’s colorful chord sequences and the solo violin’s more freely written embellishments, often containing an abundance of harmonics. Between the various chord sequences, the high strings go silent, the percussion briefly plays, and the violinist strums a chord. This happens eight or nine times until the final chord sequence, which brings the work to a quiet and soothing close.

The third Brandenburg Concerto eschews the concertante group entirely, and instead features a small string chamber orchestra in which the violins, violas, and cellos are divided each into three parts. Thus each performer carries his or her own line. And with the addition of the continuo part, this amounts to ten separate melodic lines at once. This performance of this work was one of the highlights of the evening. The strings along with harpsichordist Robin Sutherland gave a splendid performance of this exciting piece. It was a great closing to the first half.

The concert’s second half began with the Brandenburg Concerto No. 4, again featuring Mr. Constant as well as flautists Monica Daniel-Barker and Katrina Walker. This work is in three movements, the first is marked by a memorable melody in the flutes, in addition to some impressive fingerwork for Constant on violin. The second movement contained some refined and expressive flute playing from Ms. Daniel-Barker and Ms. Walker. And of course the finale: a clever fugue whose style is somewhere between a fugue proper and a concerto grosso.

Pärt’s Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten is pure grief in the form of sound. It begins with a high, multilayered line that gradually descends to evoke weeping. As it progresses, the lines grow in intensity to evoke the fullness of Pärt’s anguish after Britten’s death. Throughout this intensification, the death bell tolls over and over again, never letting the listener move on, reminding us again and again of the void that will never again be filled. I enjoyed this performance but was confused by Alasdair Neale’s conducting, which lacked subtlety and seemed inappropriate to the music being performed.

The concert closed with Bach’s fifth Brandenburg Concerto, perhaps the most concerto-like (in the modern sense) of the entire set. Here the soloists were again Mr. Constant, Ms. Daniel-Barker on flute, and Mr. Sutherland. The first movement contains some virtuosic moments from all three soloists, the most striking of all being the extended keyboard cadenza, which bursts forth, seemingly out of nowhere, and derails the entire ensemble in the most exciting and heroic way. Mr. Sutherland, who had filled the supportive role of continuo for much of the evening, now proved himself a soloist of the highest caliber. The string orchestra drops out for the second movement as the three members of the concertante perform a trio sonata. The third movement starts with the concertante alone, slowly evolves to incorporate the strings, and finally erupts into some of the most brilliant counterpoint of all Bach’s Brandenburg Concerti.

It was an impressive ending to the Marin Symphony’s best concert so far this season.