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Symphony
CONDUCTOR PLAYOFFS BEGIN IN SANTA ROSA
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 08, 2017
The Santa Rosa Symphony is calling 2017-18 “a choice season” because the next few months offer the audience and the symphony’s board of directors a chance to choose a new conductor from a pool of five candidates. Each candidate will lead a three-concert weekend set this fall and winter, with a final...
Symphony
DVORAK AND TCHAIKOVSKY ORCHESTRAL COLOR AT SO CO PHIL SEASON OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 30, 2017
A concert with curious repertoire and splashy orchestral color launched the 19th season of the Sonoma County Philharmonic Sept. 30 in Santa Rosa High School’s Auditorium. Why curious? Conductor Norman Gamboa paired the ever-popular Dvorak and his rarely heard 1891 trilogy In Nature’s Realm, with t...
Recital
ELEGANT PIANISM IN WATER MUSIC CHARMS HOUSE RECITAL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 03, 2017
A standard component of house concerts often involve listeners hearing the music but also smelling the lasagna and seeing the champagne in the adjacent kitchen. But it was not the case Sept. 3 at Sandra Shen’s Concerts Grand House Recital performance, as her riveting piano playing enthralled the sm...
Chamber
YOUNG MUSICIANS SHINE AT PIANO SONOMA CONCERT
by Lee Ormasa
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
The third in a series of four concerts by Piano Sonoma artists in residence, part of the Vino and Vibrato Series, was held August 1 in Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center. Entitled “The Masters,” the program included works by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. Piano Sonoma is a summer artist-in...
Chamber
THRILLING PROGRAM CLOSES VOM CHAMBER FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, July 30, 2017
The finale of the two-week Valley of the Moon Music Festival closed July 30 with “The Age of Bravura” concert at the Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. The musical selections held to this year’s Festival theme “Schumann’s World - His Music and the Music He Loved.“ This summer Festival features chamber mus...
Chamber
PERIOD INSTRUMENTAL SOUND AT PENULTIMATE VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 30, 2017
In the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival’s penultimate concert July 30 the perennial issue of period and modern instruments was apparent. But only in the concluding Mendelssohn Trio, as the performances in the two first half works easily avoided instrumental comparisons. Clara Schumann’s t...
Chamber
ECLECTIC REPERTOIRE IN FETCHING VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 22, 2017
One of the purposes of summer music festivals is to present unfamiliar music in an attractive and often small audience setting. The Valley of the Moon Music Festival delightfully met these requirements July 22 and 23 with two concerts in the small hall at Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. Classical Sono...
Recital
ADAMS' PHRYGIAN GATES HIGHLIGHTS MORKOSKI FESTIVAL PERFORMANCE
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Attendees at the Molly Morkoski Mendocino Music Festival recital July 22 were in for a treat, both pianistically and if they happened to buy a tasty cookie during intermission. The program included Beethoven’s Op. 27 Moonlight Sonata, Adams’ Phrygian Gates, a surprise add-on of Grieg’s Holberg Suit...
Symphony
SOARING VERDI REQUIEM CLOSES 31ST MENDOCINO FESTIVAL
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
We speak frequently about how there is nothing like the experience of a live performance. Seldom was this truer than at the July 22 closing performance of the two-week Mendocino Music Festival. The Festival Orchestra, conducted by of Allan Pollack, joined with the Festival Chorus in a moving renderi...
Recital
ORGAN REGISTRATION MASTERY HEARD IN WALHAIN'S RECITAL
by Robert Young
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
A group of 65 lucky attendees July 18 had the pleasure of hearing Etienne Walhain’s recital at the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa. Mr. Walhain is organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Tournai, Belgium, and played to a varied program Bach, Franck, and Reger. He used the tonal resource...
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.