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Symphony
BACH'S MIGHTY MASS ENDS MENDOCINO FESTIVAL
by Paula Mulligan
Saturday, July 23, 2016
For the final concert of the Mendocino Music Festival July 23 Alan Pollack conducted the Festival Orchestra and Chorus in just one work, Bach’s B Minor Mass.  The orchestra, much reduced in size to suit the needs of the sparser scoring and the character of the composition’s period, ably supported th...
Other
LATE BEETHOVEN EXPLORED AT MMF CONCERT IN PRESTON HALL
by Paula Mulligan
Thursday, July 21, 2016
The Mendocino Music Festival performance in Preston Hall July 22 was titled “Late Beethoven,” and was the final presentation in the tribute to the composer that was part of this year’s Festival.  Pianist Susan Waterfall has been giving a series of lecture dealing with Beethoven’s life and music, and...
Symphony
HEROISM AND SUBTLETY IN ALL-BEETHOVEN MMF CONCERT
by Paula Mulligan
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Much of the emphasis of this year’s Mendocino Music Festival has been about Beethoven, and a series of small venue performances with Beethoven lectures by Festival co-director Susan Waterfall preceded the July 20 orchestra performance in the big tent on Mendocino’s main street. From the opening bar...
Chamber
PERIOD INSTRUMENT SOUND AT VOM FESTIVAL'S OPENING CONCERT AT HANNA CENTER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 17, 2016
Every summer music festival has a unique character, and the Valley of the Moon Music Festival in Sonoma has the singular character of stressing period instruments that sound well for mostly period repertoire. In the Festival’s opening concert July 17 this was best in evidence for two Beethoven wor...
Recital
BALANCED VIRTUOSITY IN ATZINGER MMF RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 16, 2016
Pianist Christopher Atzinger’s Mendocino Music Festival recital July 16 in the small Preston Hall looked formidable on paper larded with what might be said to be “non festival, non summer” music. There were no light Gershwin or Schubert dance works, and for some the six pieces from Brahms’ Op. 118 ...
Opera
ONE-NIGHT STAND AT MMF'S ABDUCTION FROM THE SERAGLIO
by Terry McNeill
Friday, July 15, 2016
Mozart’s Opera “Abduction from the Seraglio” has a long reputation as being tough for singers, and it was with some trepidation that I entered the Mendocino Music Festival’s massive white tent July 15 to hear and see the new production from the 30th season. Not to Worry. Conducted by Festival Arti...
Recital
OF ANGELS, DEMONS AND ENCORES
by Kayleen Asbo
Thursday, July 14, 2016
Each successive event at this summer’s Mendocino Music Festival has brought an unfolding cornucopia of delights. Elements of the exceptional three previous classical programs coalesced July 14 into a magnificent and singular tour de force when pianist Robert Henry traversed the entire topography of...
Other
ANGUISH AND TRIUMPH IN MENDOCINO FESTIVAL'S BIG TENT
by Kayleen Asbo
Sunday, July 10, 2016
The Mendocino Music Festival is highlighting Beethoven this summer, and July 10’s program in the tent could have appropriately borrowed the subtitle from Jan Swafford’s 2014 biography of the composer, Anguish and Triumph. The Festival’s second classical concert paired two Beethoven works wit...
Chamber
BACHANALIAN BEGINNING AT MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kayleen Asbo
Saturday, July 09, 2016
In ancient Greece there were two gods of music, representing two different musical principles. Apollo, God of the Sun, was associated with intellectual clarity, and his was a kind of music that focused on order, balance, refinement and mathematical precision. Dionysus (known to the Romans of a lat...
Chamber
CHAMBERFEST ENDS WITH SUMPTUOUS ALL-MOZART CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, June 26, 2016
SSU’s ChamberFest concluded its second season June 26 with what was predicted to be a capstone concert, the last in a sterling series of seven devoted to Mozart, Schubert and Mendelssohn. And the all-Mozart concert in Weill Hall came close to being the most memorable of all, but not quite. Before ...
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.