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Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
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...
Recital
GLOVER'S ECLECTIC PROGRAMMING HIGHLIGHT'S CINNABAR RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
Daniel Glover is arguably the busiest virtuoso pianist in the San Francisco Bay area, but rarely is heard in North Bay concerts. So 90 local pianophiles were anxious to hear him Feb. 17 in Petaluma’s charming small Cinnabar Theater, and they were rewarded with an eclectic program of sometimes unfam...
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...
RECITAL REVIEW
Green Music Center / Friday, February 08, 2019
Joshua Bell, violin; Sam Haywood, piano

Joshua Bell (l) and Sam Haywood Feb. 8 in Weill Hall (Brennan Spark Photography)

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 technique, precise intonation and powerful thematic projection. An easy rapport between the two was a joy to hear and observe.

Beethoven’s enigmatic fourth Sonata 4 in A minor, Op. 23, opened the program. The intense first movement, presto, launches into a gallopy dialogue from which thematic poignancy emerged with a sense of fleeting beauty. Beethoven began the sonata in 1801 when his hearing was deteriorating, and his anxiety at the time likely made its way into the work. Mr. Bell did not emphasize the sadness implicit in the first movement but let the character of the minor mode, in which most of the movement is written, predominate.

In the following andante scherzo, piu allegretto, brief fragmentary declarations moved back and forth between piano and violin, and a fugue section resolved effectively in trills from both instruments. In the concluding third movement, the instrumental voices sang an allegro molto operatic duet with the music’s lyrical longing undercut by ominous rumbling. The three-note ascending figurations in the Sonata seemed to question whether to go forward or give up, but the spritely motive from the first movement returned, and all was resolved suddenly and quietly. An impressive and intriguing reading.

Prokofiev wrote his stunning D Major Flute Sonata in 1942, and Soviet violinist David Oistrakh suggested the composer recast it for his instrument, giving it the opus number 94a. As performed here it was a revelation. The first of four movements (moderato) is characterized by transcendent leaps and slides and insistent rhythms, with the theme repeated in different registers and reinvented countless times, but the score also contains a certain claustrophobic feeling.

In the second scherzo, presto a wild dance ensues, leading toward a lyrical section where the violin part mimes bird trills and calls. Spring and rebirth are suggested in the music, with an undertone of unease, and the performer’s flying fingers brought the Sonata to an exciting close, inspiring some of the audience to break into applause. The artists paused until the enthusiasm abated, then proceeded to the sonata’s romantic andante in which the opening theme is reiterated with exotic harmonies and figurations characteristic of the composer. The Sonata’s finale was thrilling, with Sisyphean ascents and precipitous violin downslides. Both the last two movements are fashioned classically and emotionally “cool,” and the work ended quietly, as though with philosophical resignation.

Following intermission the artists returned to perform Grieg’s Sonata No. 2, Op. 13, a work from 1867 that isn’t played as much as the C Minor Op. 45 piece written 20 years later. The first lento doloroso movement initially reflected a dirge that settled into something quite cheerful as a mini-cadenza in the violin part stated the theme and broke into a Norwegian folk dance. Mr. Bell’s bow exhibited a light touch that underscored the music’s joy with leaps and hops of phrasing. In the second movement the violinist’s interpretation showcased quick emotional changes, and his playing in the closing allegro animato featured piquant pizzicatos, dark tonal colors and deft phrases that built momentum to a thrilling conclusion.

The audience erupted in applause. After three curtain calls, Mr. Bell addressed the audience, kindly inquiring about the condition of a patron who had fainted and been taken out during the Beethoven. He then continued that he and Mr. Haywood would finish with three short encore works, and proceeded to Clara Schumann’s Romance, Op. 22, No. 1, which he played with poignant grace and heart-stirring warmth, blending beautifully with Mr. Haywood’s soft arpeggio chords and elegant phrasing.

Joachim’s arrangement of the Brahms first Hungarian Dance came next, and here the violinist gave way to his gypsy soul, playing with dramatic verve and convincing rubato. The last encore was Wieniawski’s Scherzo-Tarantelle, Op. 16, a show-stopper work that was played at turns playfully and fast, with lyrical interludes, and always with brilliant technique. Mr. Bell told the audience that he had recently returned to it after many years. It had been part of his first youthful recital decades ago.