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Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
Chamber
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the ...
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...
Recital
PIANISTIC COMMAND IN SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, October 08, 2017
Nikolay Khozyainov’s Oct. 8 debut at the Green Music Center’s Schroeder Hall was one of those rare moments in a young artist’s career when a performance approaches perfection. From the opening notes of Beethoven’s A-Flat Major Sonata (Op. 110) through a delightful recital ending transcription, the ...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Mastercard Performance Series / Saturday, October 28, 2017
Miró Quartet (Daniel Ching and William Fedkenheuer, violin; John Largess, viola; Joshua Gindele, cello); Jeffrey Kahane, piano

Miró Quarter and Jeffrey Kahane Oct. 28 (N. Bell Photo)

MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY

by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017

Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the Academy of St. Martin’s in the Fields, Peter Serkin, and several others have been cancelled at the GMC’s two halls: Weill (1,400 seats) and Schroeder (250 seats).

The silence for classical music lovers came to an end on Oct. 28 with a memorable concert in Weill Hall by the Miró Quartet and pianist Jeffrey Kahane, the former conductor of the Santa Rosa Symphony. Kahane has maintained strong ties to Sonoma County, and he proved an ideal performer to help coax fire-weary local residents back into the GMC.

Chamber music concerts in Weill Hall are usually restricted to the ground floor, which is often only half full. For the Miró/Kahane concert, however, almost every one of the 750 available seats was taken. In pre-concert remarks, the GMC’s new executive director, Jacob Yarrow, gave much of the credit to Kahane, who had suggested opening the show to everyone, asking them to “come as they are and pay what they can.” (The box office later confirmed that about one-third of the tickets were complimentary.)

The concert began with five selections from Dvorak’s rarely heard Cypresses for string quartet. The source of the rarity is evident from the piece’s content: 12 “songs without words” adapted from a song cycle written early in Dvorak’s career. Without the overarching narrative supplied by the lyrics, the songs in the instrumental version seem disconnected.

The Miró tried to solve this problem by reading the original lyrics before performing each song. Their solution was only partially successful, however, because they are not trained actors, and their unamplified voices didn’t project well in the large hall. They would have done better to work with a professional actor who could have read the lyrics with drama and volume.

On the other hand, the music was gorgeous. The transparent textures of the songs, coupled with the players’ exquisite sensitivity, allowed the sublime melodies to shine forth with the accompaniment well in the background. All the instruments shared in the melodic line, either in solos or duets. The third song, “When thy sweet glances fall on me,” was exceptionally beautiful, with a languid and ethereal melody that perfectly matched the lovelorn text.

When Kahane entered the stage to perform the Brahms piano quintet, the concert quickly moved from the travails of love to the triumph of the human spirit. Few pieces in the repertoire encompass as much territory as this remarkable quintet, which moves with ease from utmost serenity to unbridled frenzy.

Kahane sat behind the quartet, with the lid of his piano fully open. Because the floor of Weill Hall is only gently raked, he disappeared from view for much of the audience, but he was ubiquitous nonetheless. He interacted with the string players as if he were one of them, never drowning them out or stepping on their lines. The balance among all five players was a model of equanimity.

The ensemble adeptly traded lines and motives, with the prominence shifting repeatedly among the instruments. Everyone seemed fully aware of what their colleagues were playing, especially Kahane, who shifted constantly from foreground to background.

Beyond control of dynamics, the string players achieved remarkable unanimity of sound, playing as one down to the pressure and strokes of their bows. In their and Kahane’s hands, the Brahms became an ever-surprising journey into the deepest possibilities of musical thought. Nothing was predictable, yet everything the performance slowly uncovered seemed inevitable.

During the intermission, the audience exchanged fire stories and detailed their losses, but the mood was upbeat. The second half elevated the mood even more with a sparkling performance of Dvorak’s second piano quintet, a masterpiece on equal footing with the Brahms. In some ways, the Dvorak is the more transcendent of the two, carrying the listener into a realm of boundless joy and festivity.

Dvorak was a violist, and that middle instrument shines brightly throughout the quintet, nowhere more so than in the second movement, a stately dumka (folk ballad). Violist John Largess made the most of his solo opportunities, playing with a deep, rich tone that at times out-deepened the cellist, Joshua Gindele, who often played on his instrument’s upper strings. In contrast, Largess played entire phrases on his lowest string, shifting effortlessly and imperceptibly along its length.

All five musicians played the subsequent furiant (frenzied dance) movement with tremendous energy and agility, careening forward without pause into the final Allegro, an irresistible rondo. Despite the breathtaking speed, nothing was unruly, and all the lines were crystalline, with each player clearly evident. The rock-solid chorale near the end brought the music down to earth for a brief moment before the exhilarating closing bars. The ovation was immediate and sustained.

After being called back on stage a third time, the ensemble performed the last movement of Schumann’s piano quintet, considered the originator of the genre. Unfortunately, the performance was not quite up to the Brahms or Dvorak, perhaps because the movement was taken out of context or insufficiently rehearsed. The blend was muddy at times, and the arch of the narrative was often lost. But the performance was stirring nonetheless, yet more evidence that the GMC is back in full swing.

Reprinted by permission from San Francisco Classical Voice.