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Chamber
NOVEL OBOE-HARPSICHORD RECITAL FROM AIKEN DUO IN UKIAH
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Oboe and harpsichord recitals are a rare North Bay event, even in a pandemic environment where a formal hall setting isn’t available. So it was a delight Feb. 21 to experience on the Ukiah Symphony’s website a recital by Symphony oboist Beth Aiken and harpsichordist husband Tom. The Aiken home vis...
Symphony
A HEALTHY MIX OF TRANSCRIPTIONS AND ORIGINALS FROM THE SR SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Transcriptions and ascending arpeggios were the order of the day on Jan. 24, as the Santa Rosa Symphony performed uplifting works by Bach/Webern, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Marianna Martínes and Mozart. The concert video was made in Weill Hall on Jan. 9. The first transcription was Webern’s 1935 renderi...
Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Devon House Garden Concerts / Thursday, October 22, 2020
Barbara Riccardi and Maki Ishii Sowash, violin; Vicki Ehrlich, cello; Paul Ehrlich, viola

EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020

Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks.

Four San Francisco Opera Orchestra string players presented two splendid quartets Oct. 22 in the garden of Marin virtuoso violist Elizabeth Prior. Ms. Prior made the introductions to 20 attendees and the sunny afternoon began with Haydn’s D Major Quartet from his Op. 20 “Sun” series of six works.

This wonderful piece from 1772 received a cogent reading, the attacks and releases exact and the phrase interplay demonstrating the performer’s mutual stylistic familiarity. First violinist Barbara Riccardi played sparkling cascades of notes in the opening Allegro with the players emphasizing Haydn’s adventuresome harmonies. The long following Adagio affettuoso had Vicki Ehrlich playing in the cello’s high register, while violist Paul Ehrlich was in the bass. Ms. Ehrlich's cello sonority, though she was situated no closer to listeners than the other three instrumentalists, often carried above them.

The final two movements were performed in lighter weight, the first in a gypsy character and the last quite fast and sprinkled with the composer’s fastidious humor and contrasts in volume. A perfect beginning to the afternoon.

Beethoven’s Adagio from his E-Flat Major Quartet, Op. 127, was a late program addition, and was played through its five free variations in a rich tapestry of mostly somber but lyrical sound. Occasional bits of warmth shone through in this lofty music, played with sentiment but never with sentimentality.

Violinist Maki Ishii changed chairs with Ms. Riccardi for the final work, Mendelssohn’s last Quartet in F Minor. Op. 80. It’s an impassioned composition in four movements with driving rhythms and occasional musical anger. Here the Opera musicians gave an aggressive reading with sustained long-held notes, spiccato bowing, dissonances in the second movement Allegro assai, and only a short respite in the elegiac Adagio. Ms. Ehrlich and Ms. Ishii played the themes expressively, akin to the composer’s Songs Without Words for piano.

In the finale (Allegro) the Quartet kept tight control of the drama, including loud outbursts of sound and seeming emotional anxiety without relief.

One encore came, clearly familiar to string musicians in the SF Opera, Offenbach’s iconic Barcarolle from his 1881 Opera The Tales of Hoffmann. The playing was in every way “Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour,” with ample pizzicato and Mr. Ehrlich’s poetic statement of the famous theme.