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Recital
DYNAMIC PIANISM IN YAKUSHEV MARIN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 23, 2022
Russian pianist Ilya Yakushev arrived Jan. 23 at his Mill Valley Chamber Music Society recital with the repute of playing loud and fast and delivering charming introductory musical remarks to his audience. He was true to form in Mill Valley’s Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church, preceding Haydn’s sple
Symphony
THE SHOW MUST GO ON
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 9, 2022
The Jan. 9 Santa Rosa Symphony concert was supposed to feature the world premiere of Gabriella Smith’s first symphony, but it ended up featuring another type of premiere: a concert that was conceived, rehearsed and performed in less than eight hours. Symphony staff learned on Sunday morning that so
Choral and Vocal
AN OLD FRIEND RETURNS TO WEILL IN STERLING ABS MESSIAH PERFORMANCE
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Sunday, December 19, 2021
A tremendous accomplishment by the American Bach Soloists Dec. 19 was near perfect performance of Handel's Messiah in Weill Hall. Long an annual tradition at San Francisco's Grace Cathedral, the ABS took to the road and delivered a Christmas gift of epic proportions to an obviously thrilled and enth
Symphony
SHOSTAKOVICH FIFTH THUNDERS AT WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 5, 2021
In a new season marketed as “Classical Reunion,” the Santa Rosa Symphony made a palpable connection with its audience at the early December set of three standing ovation concerts in Weill Hall. The December 5 concert, with 1,000 attending, is reviewed here. Vaughan Williams’ popular Fantasia on a T
Chamber
THE LINCOLN RETURNS WITH CLARKE'S PUNGENT TRIO
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, November 18, 2021
There were many familiar faces Nov. 18 during Music at Oakmont’s initial concert of the season, but perhaps the most necessary were the three musicians of the Lincoln Piano Trio, the Chicago-based group that has performed often in Oakmont since 2006. A smaller than unusual audience in Berger Audito
Symphony
NOSTALGIC BARBER KNOXVILLE AT SO CO PHIL JACKSON THEATER CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 14, 2021
In their first Jackson Theater appearance of the new season the Sonoma County Philharmonic presented Nov. 14 a program devoid of novelty, but showcasing the “People’s Orchestra” in splendid performance condition after a long COVID-related layoff. Conductor Norman Gamboa drew a committed and boister
Chamber
THRILLING PIANO QUINTETS IN MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 14, 2021
The Mill Valley Chamber Music Society sprang back to life on November 14 when a stellar ensemble from the Manhattan Chamber Players, a New York-based collective, arrived to perform two piano quintets: Vaughn-Williams’ in C Minor (1903), little known and rarely performed; and Schubert’s in A Major D.
Chamber
MUSCULAR BRAHMS FROM IVES COLLECTIVE IN GLASER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 14, 2021
Leaving SRJC’s Newman Auditorium for the first time in decades, the College’s Chamber Concert Series presented a season-opening concert Nov. 14 in Santa Rosa’s Glaser Center with the four-musician Bay-Area based Ives Collective. The season, the first given since 2020, is dedicated to Series Founder
Symphony
MONUMENTAL BRAHMS SYMPHONY HIGHLIGHTS MARIN SYMPHONY RETURN
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 7, 2021
In the waning COVID pandemic the Marin Symphony is one of the last Bay Area orchestras to return to the stage, and they did with considerable fanfare Nov. 7 before 1,200 in Civic Center Auditorium, with resident conductor Alasdair Neale leading a demanding concert of Brahms, Schumann and New York-ba
Symphony
APOLLO'S FIRE LIGHTS UP VIVALDI'S FOUR SEASONS IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 30, 2021
Long ago the Canadian violin virtuoso Gil Shaham played a program in Weill Hall of solo Bach, with a visual backdrop of slowly developing visuals, such as a pokey flower opening over four minutes. The Bach was sensational, and some in the audience liked the photos but many found them disconcerting,
CHAMBER REVIEW
Roe-Thorsteindøttir Duo / Sunday, February 1, 2015
Elizabeth Joy Roe, piano; Sæunn Thorsteinsdøttir, cello

Cellist Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir

KNOTTY CELLO MUSIC THAT WAS (MOSTLY) EASY TO LOVE

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 1, 2015

Notable cello concerts have recently graced Sonoma County with Edward Arron’s Oakmont recital and Yo Yo Ma’s sterling solo outing in Weill. So it was not surprising that Sæunn Thorsteindóttir walked onto the Schroeder Hall stage Feb. 1 with pianist Elizabeth Roe and found a packed house of non-Superbowl fans.

In the first half contrasts abounded, beginning with the charming Beethoven Variations on “Bei Männern” from the Magic Flute and ending with the demanding Britten Sonata from 1961. The seven Beethoven variations served as an excellent warm up work, the balances good and the cellist using chaste vibrato and a secure and radiant bow style. Acoustics in the hall gave the instrument a pellucid sound, carrying easily to upper rows of seats.

The Britten is a tough work to love with sad, lyrical and restless sections combining in its five movements. Using the score as she did throughout the recital Ms. Thorsteindóttir played the long first movement with intensity, ending it with an extended tranquil fermata that was echoed by Ms. Roe’s gentile right hand tremolo. The aggressive pizzicato technique in the Scherzo was juxtaposed by demanding bursts from the piano, a question and answer dialogue that was compelling.

A plodding dirge characterized the following Elegia with bracing washes of sound and broad notes from the cello and hushed up-and-down octave jumps from the piano. The playing in the fourth movement caught the bouncy and banal nature of the music that turned at times to eerie and strident cello notes high on the fingerboard.

Skittish outbursts permeated the playing in the concluding finale and the tempos were fast but never out of control. The unison playing was faultless. The applause was substantial but not protracted.

Rachmaninoff’s early Sonata in G Minor, an easy piece to love, took up the entire second half and received a generous and grand reading. Ms. Thorsteindóttir doesn’t command a big outgoing sound, but she has a salutary tone quality and was ready to defer pride of place to her partner in many sections. The Rachmaninoff piece needs a pianist with a big technique and profile, and Ms. Roe was up to the task. As is well known with Rachmaninoff there are a lot of notes (difficult ones too) but if some are skipped or smudged the texture isn’t quite right. The pianist’s playing occasionally had this result and covered the cellist with extended use of the shift pedal and lavish employment of the damper pedal.

The second and third movement performances were highlights of the concert, especially in the provocative scherzo where the players were on fire with inspiration. The themes overflowed with passion. In the famous Largo Ms. Thorsteindóttir’s first entry following the lovely piano introduction was opulently colored and her conception throughout was subtle and restrained.

The playing of the weighty themes in the finale lacked clarity but was never wanting in momentum and potency. This music animated the audience of 250 and a standing ovation resulted.

Ms. Thorsteindóttir announced an encore, the short slow movement from the Chopin G Minor Sonata, Op. 65. Here the playing was captivating, each phrase integrated in a shapely and prismatic whole.