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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...
CHAMBER REVIEW
PianoSonoma - Vino and Vibrato Series / Tuesday, July 26, 2016
Julia Glenn, violin; Mika Sasaki, Michael Shinn, Jessica Chow Shinn, Peter Dugan, piano; Emi Ferguson, flute; Kara Sainz, mezzo-soprano

Violinist Julia Glenn

PIANOSONOMA SERIES OPENS WITH ECHT GERMAN ROMANTICISM

by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, July 26, 2016

PianoSonoma’s second season in SSU’s Schroeder Hall began July 26 with a mixed program under the series appellation “Vino & Vibrato.” The set of student workshops and concerts, headed by Juilliard School pianists Jessica and Michael Shinn, puts artists in residence in close contact with Sonoma County adult musicians for two weeks each summer.

Titled a “Love Triangle” (Clara and Robert Schumann with Brahms), Clara Schumann’s Three Romances for Violin and Piano, Op. 22, had a shaky opening. Violinist Julia Glenn’s intonation wavered and the thematic projection in the soaring melancholy of the Andante was tentative. Clear note taking in the Allegretto was seldom clear, but her best playing came in the final Agitato’s light lyricism, and Ms. Glenn leaned gracefully into some notes with palpable effect.

An 11-minute interlude work from Brahms, his piano transcription for four hands from Robert Schumann’s E-Flat Major Quartet, Op. 47, (Andante only) was played by the Shinns. Ms. Shin was segundo and the arching phrases, lovely counterpoint and poignant sadness of the super-romantic music was vivid and chaste. Mr. Shinn noted to the audience that the work was Brahms’ best love song for Clara, but that gift could also be the Andante from the Op. 60 C Minor Piano Quartet.

Pianist Mika Sasaki played well with forceful rolling chords in the final Romance, and continued admirable pianism with two sets of variations on a Robert Schumann theme from his Op. 99 Bunte Blätter. First came Clara’s Op. 20, and Ms. Sasaki’s tempos were never rushed and she played with a subtle touch, though over pedaling at times made the left-hand line muddy. The slower variations and the concluding arpeggios were lovely.

Brahms’ Op 9 Variations on the same theme is far removed from the composer’s virtuosic Handel Variations, and Ms. Sasaki played 12 of the written 16. Few other composers (Bizet, Rubinstein) at this time were writing formal variations for piano, and the pianist made a good case for the 1854 work with ruminating themes, a boisterous repeated-note variation and a catchy dance variation. The music had a far off feel with the pianist playing strong bass chords before in the last variation slowing down the tempo to elegant effect.

Following intermission mezzo-soprano Kara Sainz joined pianist Peter Dugan in three sets of songs: three from Brahms and two each by Clara and Robert. Clara’s Liebst du um Schonheit and Liebeszauber were performed well but the better known Brahms and Robert Schumann works overshadowed them. The big “Wie Melodien” (Op. 105, No. 1) was verbally introduced by Mr. Duggan, and his clean distinctive piano sound melded well with Ms. Sainz’s supple voice and excellent German diction.

Ms. Sainz’ slow steady voice sounded comely in the well-known “Die Mainacht” (Op. 43, No. 2), but lacked the last bit of warmth in the biggest climaxes of “Meine Leibe ist grun” (My love is Green), Op. 65, No. 5.

The concert’s last offering, the Robert Schumann songs, was a fitting end. Ms. Sainz flattened (presumably by artistic design) some notes in phrases in “Er, der Herrlichste von allen,” from the cycle Frauenliebe und Leben, a seminal work for mezzo. Here Mr. Dugan’s playing at places covered the singer, but was in perfect balance for the operatic “Widmung” from the cycle Myrthen, Op. 25. Some of the raw vocal power and color needed in this song was absent, but perhaps Liszt’s two piano transcriptions of “Widmung” are too much in mind, and defer the beauty of this celebrated song from a salutary mezzo.

Most of the 80 people in the hall rose in a short ovation.