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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 Saëns, 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 Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s 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...
Symphony
AMERICAN CLASSICS SPARKLE UNDER KAHANE’S BATON
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Jeffrey Kahane, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s former conductor, returned to the Weill Hall podium on Saturday night, and the results were expectedly wonderful. The concert of American classics was by turns playful (Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”), emotional (Barber’s violin concerto) and triumphant (...
Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Mendocino Music Festival / Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Allan Pollack, conductor. Frederick von Stade and Melissa Angulo, soprano; Jeremiah Smith, bass-baritone

Frederick Von Stade (l) and Melissa Angula July 22 with Alan Pollack Photo (N. Wilson photo)

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 a happy prelude to the anticipated singing and the famous final Mozart Symphony.

In the first half works associated with Mozart’s operas were heard, and the starring role was given to the splendid mezzo-soprano Fredericka Von Stade. The venerable artist sang two arias (“Vedrai Carino” from Don Giovanni and “Una donna a quindici anni” from Cosi Fan Tutte), charmed the audience with repartee as only a diva can do, and joined with two young singers from Berkeley in sparkling duets. Jeremiah Smith came first with the “La ci darem” from Don Giovanni, a baritone aria that he sang with refinement but without the requisite power, and Ms. Von Stade was his perfect foil as Zerlina. More vocal potency came from soprano Melissa Angula in “Come scoglio” (Cosi), the singing being energetic but top notes were shrill and the orchestra covered her at times. Ms. Angula commands and long and even trills.

How is Ms. Von Stade at this point in a career that began 45 years ago in New York? She still has a lyrical Cherubino (Marriage of Figaro) with deft communication and élan if slightly reduced projection and vocal color, and she ebulliently commanded every inch of the stage. In the duo with Ms. Angula they sang from a faux score that when turned over revealed and large Nicholas Wilson photo of Mr. Pollack, to much laughter and apparently was unforeseen by the conductor. Ovations during this set from the audience of 750 were long and loud.

As good as the singing was, the C Major Symphony (K. 551, “Jupiter”) was the concert’s highlight. Here conductor Alan Pollack brought mostly moderate tempos to the four movements of Mozart’s last and greatest symphonic work. Solid brass and flute (Mindy Rosenfeld) playing characterized the opening Allegro Vivace with several modulations bringing the composer’s dramatic contrasts into relief and a lovely oboe solo from Thomas Nugent.

The Andante had a personal character with pathos and an occasional rhythmic surprise. The muted strings sounded suitably rich. The Minuet was played in the manner of Haydn, richly blossoming into the Trio of winds and strings. The conductor controlled all very well, letting the tympani give just the right foundation support.

If the multi-fugue finale doesn’t excite an audience, no Mozart symphony movement will, and here Mr. Pollack drove a quiet beginning into a swifter tempo than anything before. The many short themes whirled by with a lot of energy, and the conductor never let the polyphony become murky, even with the tent’s unique acoustics and at elevated volumes.

It was an uplifting and cogent performance, down to the final six epochal chords that were in a small way an additional declaration of Mozart’s compositional genius.