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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...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Brave New Music / Wednesday, February 04, 2015
Szymanowski Quartet. Agata Szymczewska and Grzegorz Koloq, violin; Vladimir Mykytka, viola; Marcin Sieniawski, cello

Szymanowski Quartet Feb. 4 in Healdsburg (N. Bell Photo)

INTENSE STRING PLAYING IN HEALDSBURG'S ALL-POLISH COMPOSER PROGRAM

by Nicki Bell
Wednesday, February 04, 2015

A surprise program change greeted a full house in Healdsburg’s SHED Grange Room Feb. 4 when the Szymanowski Quartet from Warsaw played an all-Polish composer concert. Judging by audience comments at intermission the displacement of an arrangement of a Mussorgsky work by Penderecki’s Third Quartet was a happy one.

The entire concert, produced by Brave New Music, was saturated by dramatics that reflected the evening’s theme - No Expressive Stone Unturned. The playing of this consummate ensemble infused the room with provocative music, beginning with the Quartet’s namesake “Nocturne and Tarantella” from 1915. Originally written for violin and piano the piece was arranged for the Szymanowski by Ukrainian composer Myroslav Skoryk, and the contrasts between the gentle Nocturne and the increasingly percussive (and eventually fatal) tarantella were stark and angry.

Penderecki’s recent Quartet (“Leaves from an Unwritten Diary”) received a reading full of vitality and featured several gorgeous viola solos from Vladimir Mykytka. It’s written in one long movement with different scenes, and was commissioned by the Shanghai Quartet in 2008.

At the opening the music was wild and percussive, the string glissandos and shimmering tremolos becoming at times angry, and then reflective and lyrical. There were references to Bartok’s style in the primitive dance figurations and a dialogue of confrontation. The performance was virtuosic.

Following intermission and a position switch for violinists the Bacewicz Fourth String Quartet, based on Polish folk melodies, was performed. Here the dynamics were continuously nuanced, an exceptional accomplishment given the excitement of the playing and the tricky dance-like rhythms. Harmonies in this 1951 work were Brahmsian and then Ravelian, the latter with textures of teasing jazz.

The lovely slow movement was played with intertwined melodies from cellist Marcin Sieniaski and violinists Agata Szymczenska and Grzegorz Koloq, and the finale was a romp that could have come from Prokofiev. Wistful folk tunes turned into a frantic dance, reminding one of the Tarantella performed earlier in the program. The Quartet gave the Bacewicz heart-stopping intensity and a glowing and rapturous finish.

An ecstatic audience demanded an encore and it came with the Quartet’s own arrangement of a waltz from Shostakovich’s Jazz Suite. Recent research has shown the theme actually is from the Russian’s 1956 “Suite for Variety Orchestra” and became famous as a part of the soundtrack to the movie “Eyes Wide Shut.” It was a sweet and sincere ending to a kaleidoscopic concert of potent chamber music.

Contributing to this review were Linda McLaughlin and Vishnu.