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Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
Symphony
PEACE AND LOVE FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 04, 2018
Before the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 4 performance of Leonard Bernstein’s “Symphonic Dances from West Side Story,” Symphony CEO Alan Silow took a moment to acknowledge the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack and to observe that music offers a more peaceful and loving view of the world. Mr. ...
Chamber
ATOS TRIO IN MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 04, 2018
When the ATOS Piano Trio planned their all-Russian touring program at their Berlin home base, it had a strong elegiac, even tragic theme that surely resonated with their Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience Nov. 4 in Mill Valley. Comprised of Annette von Hehn, violin; Thomas Hoppe, piano; and...
Chamber
ATOS TRIO IN OCCIDENTAL CHAMBER CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 03, 2018
When the Berlin-based ATOS Piano Trio entered the cramped Occidental Performing Arts stage Nov. 3, the audience of 100 anticipated familiar works in the announced all-Russian program. What they got was a selection of rarely-plays trios, with a gamut of emotions. Then one-movement Rachmaninoff G Mi...
Symphony
MIGHTY SHOSTAKOVICH 10TH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 28, 2018
Just two works were on the opening program of the Marin Symphony’s 67th season Oct. 28, Tchaikovsky’s iconic D Major Violin Concerto, and Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony. Before a full house in the Marin Center Auditorium conductor Alasdair Neale set a judicious opening tempo in the brief orchestra i...
Symphony
VIVALDI FOR ALL SEASONS IN WEILL BAROQUE CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, October 27, 2018
The Venice Baroque Orchestra, a dozen superb musicians that include strings, harpsichord and recorder, played an uplifting concert Oct. 27 of mostly Vivaldi sinfonias and concertos. The Weill Hall audience of 600 had rapt attention throughout, and the playing was of the highest musical level. This r...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Brentano String Quartet / Sunday, September 30, 2018
Mark Steinberg and Serena Canin, violin; Misha Amory, viola; Nina Lee, cello

Brentano String Quartet Accepting Applause Sept. 30 in Weill Hall

THORNY BARTOK AND ELEGANT MENDELSSOHN FOR THE BRENTANO

by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, September 30, 2018

In a minor masterpiece of programming choices the Brentano String Quartet played a Sept. 30 Weill Hall program with an emphasis on refinement, even with a challenging Bartok work in the mix.

Dvorák’s Miniatures for Two Violins and Viola (Op. 75a) opened the concert with charm and gentle loveliness, then folk dance jubilation, profound sadness and finally sighs of lament. The colors were varied and the textures of the three instruments seemed to beguile the attentive audience of 300. The balance and communication of the players was exquisite and powerful in understatement. Czech rhythms appeared in the capriccio, poco allegro and in the romance smooth attacks and deft swelling in short phrases was lovely. Second violin Serena Canin and violist Mischa Amory supported the themes projected by violinist Mark Steinberg in impeccable ensemble with no phrase overplayed and tempos that felt a perfect fit to the music. The performer played standing.

The central work of the program was Bartok’s Second Quartet from 1917, a work inspired by the composer’s travel as an ethnomusicologist in his native Hungary. The first moderato movement opens with the cello leading into dissonant and emotional themes, and the Brentano passed these around, sometimes evoking alienation and at other times shifting from gentle rocking to furious outbursts. There was pain and there was relief. The intensity of this music was sustained which drew from folk traditions, but it’s not folk music in the usual sense, but structural and rhythmic “peasant” music. The second movement (allegro motto capriccioso) was a festival of surging Hungarian dance rhythms. Mr. Steinberg led the wild frenzy which suddenly stops, is tentative, then evolves into a nostalgic waltz, then a gallop with motives from the first movement. The fast and clear passagework in all instruments was riveting and dramatic, especially a thick texture duo from Mr. Amory and cellist Nina Lee.

The third and final lento movement is unusual because traditionally last movements are lively. Here dissonances hover, answered by a sighing cello line and a sense of desolation conveyed by a sad descending violin part. Everywhere the sound had a yearning, looking backward character with wandering unisons, a lovely descending violin phrase from Ms. Canin, and “statements” by both violins that led to “answers” from the cello and viola. Mr. Steinberg’s high register playing had a reference to the Vaughan William’s “Lark Ascending,” and the thorny music an echo of Bartok’s contemporary Pfitzner.

After intermission came Mendelssohn’s Quartet in E flat Major, Opus 44, No. 3, the fifth of his six in the genre.. The allegro vivace is full of excitement, at times restrained, and other times exploding and soaring. Always there are echoes of Beethoven. Repeats were played differently and the knotty first violin part with fistfuls of notes and sixteenth-note passages up high was managed with aplomb by Mr. Steinberg. Clarity here could have been lost wth too much speed, but the Brentano played it admirably with a felicitous tempo. The echt scherzo had proper Mendelssohnian scurrying fantasy and the light attacks in the fugal section breathtaking. The three pizzicato notes at the end were perfectly shaped. The playing in the third movement evoked love in an ever changing form with delicate phrasing, perfect intonation and a planned sense of tentative character. One doesn’t see much inter-musician eye contact with the Brentano, and they are intensely focused on their scores. Key solo playing came from Mr. Amory.

Concluding this quartet and the afternoon’s music the playing of the molto allegro con fuoco soared and and always urged onward, with strong references to the composer’s second cello Sonata, Op. 49 Piano Trio and even the youthful Octet the same key. This is contented and happy music, built carefully in small climaxes. Mr. Steinberg was again the leader here with an agile bow arm, easily conquering the difficulty of playing three sixteenth notes down bow and a single sixteenth note up bow, all the while staying at the same place in the bow and and at a fast pace not making any accents the lone note. The performance had an inevitable quality, gracious and ordered.

Perhaps for some in the hall the playing lacked the big-boned projection of the local hero Parker and Alexander Quartets, but for most the ensemble and elegant musical blend was richly satisfying. A large ovation greeted the exuberant final chord, but there was no encore.

Daniel Greenhouse and Terry McNeill contributed to this review.