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Chamber
UNEXPECTED ARENSKY AND MENDELSSOHN BY THE NAVARRO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
The 100 people entering Schroeder Hall Feb. 17 for a Trio Navarro concert were handed a program that appeared to feature two popular piano trios, Mendelssohn and Arensky. But continuing the Navarro’s tradition of repertoire exploration, the pieces were not the usual first Mendelssohn and first Aren...
Symphony
MENDELSSOHN'S SCOTTISH SAVES THE EVENING IN SRS WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Monday, February 11, 2019
The audience entering Weill Hall for Santa Rosa Symphony concerts Feb. 9-11 were presented with a program that on first glance appeared a curious patchwork – a great symphony mixed with a seldom heard concerto and two disparate overtures, and a guest conductor unknown locally. Monday night’s concer...
Recital
INTRIGUING BELL-HAYWOOD RECITAL BEFORE FULL HOUSE IN WEILL HALL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, February 08, 2019
A big portion of the capacity audience in Weill Hall February 8th came to hear violinist Joshua Bell’s virtuosity, and were treated as well to splendid playing from Sam Haywood, Mr. Bell’s regular pianist since 2010. The duo performed three engaging sonatas, highlighted by Mr. Bell’s sterling techn...
Symphony
TRIPLE PLAY UKIAH SYMPHONY CONCERT AND TCHAIKOVSKY SERENADE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Over the years the Ukiah Symphony’s concerts have been in the Classical Sonoma Calendar sections, but rarely has this Orchestra, now in its 39th season, had a full winter season concert review. The provocative Jan. 27 program in Mendocino College’s Center Theater seemed a good reason to reacquaint ...
Symphony
JACKSON THEATER WELCOMES A NEW RESIDENT ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Moving to a permanent new performance venue can be a perilous undertaking for an orchestra, with different acoustics, the loyal audience finding the new spot and infrastructure challenges of lighting and lobby and backstage operations. In their first concert Jan. 26 in Windsor’s Jackson Theater the...
Symphony
ECLECTIC PASSIONATE PROGRAMMING AT MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 26, 2019
The Marin Symphony’s second Masterworks concert of the 2018-19 season featured works by John Adams, Sibelius and Brahms, a masterful assembly. In a spoken introduction before the program’s first half, conductor Alasdair Neale primed the audience for the “terra incognita” of Adams’ The Chairman Dance...
Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
RECITAL REVIEW
Mastercard Performance Series / Friday, March 11, 2016
Lawrence Brownlee, tenor

Tenor Lawrence Brownlee

STUNNING BROWNLEE RECITAL IN WEILL CAPPED BY HIGH C'S

by Peter Benecke
Friday, March 11, 2016

Tenor Lawrence Brownlee gave a March 11 Weill Hall recital that treated those who were willing to brave the elements to an evening of great artistry, sensitivity and vocal perfection. The musical world has come to expect seamless agility, vocal fireworks and seemingly endless high notes from the bel canto tenor, and with his flawless technique, Mr. Brownlee demonstrated these qualities and more in an evening of intimate lyricism and heartfelt communication.

The program opened with four songs from a well-known collection of 24 early Italian songs and Arias. These are often considered beginner’s pieces, yet here they were a lesson in mastery of style and expression. Mr. Brownlee showed impeccable style and technique with each one. These were followed by two Bellini songs in which Mr. Brownlee demonstrated himself to be a master of legato singing. The second of these, “La Ricordanza,” is an almost mirror image of the famous melody from the opera I Puritani, “Qui la Voce,” beloved as a soprano aria for its haunting beauty.

With pianist John Churchwell, Mr. Brownlee had found a worthy partner. His tour de force performance of the introduction to Rossini’s beloved concert piece” La Danza” could have stood alone, with Mr. Churchwell leaving the keyboard nearly smoking! Mr. Brownlee was equal to the challenge of the opening salvo and matched its brilliance with a vocal presentation that left listeners nearly breathless. The tenor clearly had fun with it and brought the audience to cheers. This was followed by two more of Rossini’s more lyric pieces of depth and expression, “L’esule” and “La Lontananza.” Rossini was a singer himself and his vocal works show a variety of moods and colors, ideally suited to the voice.

The first half finished with two favorite Neapolitan songs by Tosti, “L’ideale” and “Marechiare,” and they were enthusiastically received by an audience that was now well aware that they were hearing a special and unique evening of singing.

After intermission the artist announced that he was going to “break down the fourth wall.” With a few words he transformed the opulent Weill into an intimate space where every person felt that the tenor sang for him or her alone. He started with a set of Irish lyrics arranged by his friend Ben Moore. Mr. Moore is a singer and originally wrote the songs for himself, but after meeting and working with Mr. Brownlee, set them in higher keys to suit a high tenor voice. The resulting extraordinary pieces on texts by James Joyce and William Butler Yeats combine classical style with blues and jazz elements. Mr. Brownlee sang them with exquisite dynamic control.

Keeping the spirit of the broken fourth wall, Mr. Brownlee invited the audience members to sing along in “It Ain’t Necessarily So” from Gershwin’s iconic Porgy and Bess, followed by masterful presentation of Sportin’ Life’s aria from that same opera, “There’s a Boat Dat’s Leaving Soon For New York.”

The final offering on the program was a set of spirituals given modern settings by composer Damien Sneed. It was here that Mr. Brownlee opened his heart, sharing with the audience the story of his mother’s favorite song “Sinner Please Don’t Let This Harvest Pass” and speaking openly as a father of the challenge of his international career that takes him away from home for so much of his young children’s lives. “All Night, All Day (Angels Watchin’ Over Me)” he has nicknamed “Caleb’s Song,” for the five-year old son he so often leaves behind while touring.

Bowing to the enthusiastic applause, Mr. Brownlee returned to the stage for an encore. Without introduction and to the audience’s evident delight, he began the aria “Ah mes amis” from Donizetti’s opera Daughter of the Regiment, famous for its nine high Cs! With astonishing ease, after a full program of demanding, virtuosic singing, Mr. Brownlee conquered them all, holding the final high note so long that the audience was left gasping for air and leaping to its feet as one!