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Opera
SPARKLING CIMAROSA OPERA HIGHLIGHTS MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kathryn Stewart
Friday, July 13, 2018
The Classical music era was a time of extraordinary innovation. Dominated by composers from the German-speaking countries, the period witnessed the handiwork of masterpieces by two classical giants, Haydn and Mozart. Both composers put forth a tremendous catalog of masterful works and perhaps to our...
Symphony
!PURA VIDA! A SONIC TRIUMPH FOR SO CO PHIL IN THRILLING COSTA RICA TOUR CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Long anticipated events, such as a great sporting game, gourmet feast, holiday trip or a concert, occasionally fall way short of expectations. The results don’t measure to expectations. With the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Costa Rica concert June 19, the performance exceeded any heated or tenuou...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now they seem to be on almost ever...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Mastercard Performance Series / Sunday, February 25, 2018
Takács Quartet. Edward Dusinberre and Károly Schranz, violin; Geraldine Walther, viola; András Fejér, cello. Marc Andre Hamelin, piano

Marc-Andre Hamelin (2nd from Left) and the Takács SQ Feb. 25

BEETHOVEN'S MAJESTY IN TAKACS QUARTET CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 25, 2018

Greatness in a single musical composition carried the day Feb. 25 when the Takács String Quartet played Beethoven in Weill Hall.

Sweeping aside two first half pieces, the Takács tackled Beethoven’s penultimate Quartet, the monumental C-Sharp Minor, Op. 131, written in 1826. From the first notes (adagio, and fugue) from violinist Edward Dusinberre it was clear that a magisterial experience would unfold. In six movements, played without break, a set of curiously formed variations supports a theme which seems to finally “congeal.” The Takács played extended soft passages beautifully, spiced by three and five-note outbursts by cellist András Fejér.

Hallmarks of quartet virtuosity were everywhere in the 31-minute piece: clean attacks and releases, naturally shaped phrasing, chaste ensemble, tempos that paired perfectly with the music, pizzicato in three instruments mixed exactly with a lush theme in the first violin. An example of Takác’s mastery of control came at the end of the demanding E Major presto (section five) where in the final chord repeats two were played legato with a diminuendo, and the third dry and almost silent. Masterful.

The lied phrase leading to the victorious allegro finale was profoundly beautiful. The Takács eloquent performance fixed as always Beethoven as the creator.

Weber’s Langsamer Satz quartet movement opened the concert, a luminous nine-minute farewell by the Viennese composer to saturated harmonies before being seduced by his teacher Schönberg’s radical musical aesthetic. The Quartet captured the thick, wistful music with a luxurious ensemble, hothouse romanticism and a warm cello line foundation.

Pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin joined the group for Dohnanyi’s Quintet, Op. 1. There is much to admire in this work with its easy fluency and broad lyricism. Every commentator since the piece’s 1902 debut cites Brahms’ influence, and of course that is true. There is also some Rubinstein and early Busoni in the writing, evident even in the fleet and thick scherzo that was played with a perfectly gauged ending, all in unisons.

Violist Geraldine Walther and Mr. Hamelin played a beautiful duo beginning the adagio, slow and stately and reminiscent of the opening of the Brahms B Major Piano Trio and bits of Schumann. It was playing of a touching love song, with Mr. Fejér’s low register cello line a sweet majesty. Themes here push to be heard among palpable poetry.

The allegro finale had much lively writing for the piano, and Mr. Hamelin played it convincingly. String ensemble was exemplary, but the piano line, at least with legato playing below mezzo forte, was clouded by the now well-known acoustic deficiencies in Weill. Orchestras and solo voice in the Hall are pellucid and sunny, but the addition of a forceful piano part in chamber music is sonically problematical.

An audience of 300 gave the Takács and Mr. Hamelin loud applause. No encore came after the gripping, spiritual Beethoven performance.