Home  Reviews  Articles  Calendar  Presenters  Add Event     
Choral and Vocal
A SPIRITUAL FAURE REQUIEM IN GOOD FRIDAY CANTIAMO CONCERT
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Friday, April 15, 2022
Choral and Vocal
SONOMA BACH'S PALESTRINA FEAST AT ST. SERAPHIMS
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Sunday, March 20, 2022
Choral and Vocal
AN OLD FRIEND RETURNS TO WEILL IN STERLING ABS MESSIAH PERFORMANCE
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Sunday, December 19, 2021
Choral and Vocal
A SEASONAL MESSIAH WITH BALANCE AND HEFT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 10, 2017
Choral and Vocal
A MAJESTIC ABS MESSIAH ORATORIO RESOUNDS IN WEILL DEC. 18
by Joanna Bramel Young
Sunday, December 18, 2016
Choral and Vocal
EARLY CHRISTMAS SEASON TRIUMPH FOR 24 ANGELS IN WEILL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, November 27, 2016
Choral and Vocal
EASTER AND ASCENSION ORATORIOS SOAR IN ABS MARIN CONCERT
by Joanna Bramel Young
Friday, April 22, 2016
Choral and Vocal
CHANTICLEER SINGS TO THE MOON IN WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, April 16, 2016
Choral and Vocal
RUTTER REQUIEM PERFORMANCE ENNOBLES GOOD FRIDAY CONCERT AT INCARNATION
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 25, 2016
Choral and Vocal
SEAMLESS ENSEMBLE AT MENKE-THOMPSON-ZAJAC CONCERT IN SCHROEDER
by Christa Durand
Sunday, March 13, 2016
CHORAL AND VOCAL REVIEW
Sonoma State University Department of Music / Sunday, March 13, 2016
Carol Menke, soprano; Marilyn Thompson, piano; Roy Zajac, clarinet

Soprano Carol Menke

SEAMLESS ENSEMBLE AT MENKE-THOMPSON-ZAJAC CONCERT IN SCHROEDER

by Christa Durand
Sunday, March 13, 2016

Those who braved the storm March 13 to attend diva Carol Menke’s recital in the intimate Schroeder Hall were rewarded with a warm program of chamber music for voice, clarinet and piano. 

Brahms’ E-Flat Clarinet Sonata, Op. 120, No. 2, opened the concert.  The interplay and communication between pianist Marilyn Thompson and clarinetist Roy Zajac was faultless. All three movements contained call and response segments between the two instruments that were performed playfully and precisely. At all dynamic levels, Ms. Thompson was ever watchful to keep an excellent balance of sound in the piano versus clarinet dynamic. The warm timbre of Mr. Zajac’s clarinet tone traversed seamlessly between extreme lows and bright, clear highs.

In the next part of the program Ms. Menke spoke a warm and inviting welcome to the audience that put them at ease, and then a set of rarely performed Spanish songs of Turina was heard. The composer studied for a time in France, and was influenced by Debussy, and the impressionistic qualities as well the influence of as Turina’s regional Spanish folk songs were evident in all six songs.

Turina’a song cycle showed both pianist and soprano at their best, conveying their virtuosity and the emotion of each piece, from the sighing “Cuando tan Hermosa os miro” (When I gaze on you so lovely, I sigh with love) to the peppy and pastoral “Al val de Fuente Ovejuna” (The Valley of Fente Ovejuna), to the poignant finale “Los dos meidos” (The two fears).  This group displayed Ms. Menke’s impeccable dynamic control as she effortlessly floated her notes above the sea of piano.  Completely focused and in character throughout, she carried the audience along with her on the waves of emotion. Between movements not a sound could be heard in the hall. Upon hearing the last floating whisper of sound of the last phrase “I am afraid without you”, the audience praised her performance with thunderous applause.

Mr. Zajac then returned to the join Ms. Thompson and Ms. Menke for Schubert’s “Der Hirt auf dem Felsen (The Shepherd on the Rock). A soprano friend of Schubert’s had asked him to write a showstopper for her to sing, and in the final months of his life he created this masterpiece.  The first section tells of a shepherd happily singing in the green hills. Schubert wrote marvelous call and response sections between the clarinet and soprano, and piano and soprano to musically paint the echo effect.  From this light lyrical section, the Shepherd falls into despair at being alone without love, and the music descends into a darker color for all three musicians. But spring comes again and the shepherd is hopeful. Schubert writes in echoes, trills and runs that imitate the sounds of the spring birds. Known for her coloratura Ms. Menke did not disappoint and handled the musical runs with ease and versatility, her high notes chirping quickly like bird song.  Ms. Thompson and Mr. Zajac matched her timing and timbre, creating a delightful spring effect. All three musicians made the perilous and energetic runs seem effortless.

After intermission the audience was treated to more Brahms: five songs from different cycles for soprano and piano.  In “Stanchen” (Serenade) Ms. Thompson kept the piano lively and precise, imitating the folk band sound of the “flute, fiddle, and zither” mentioned in the text. After this delightful and bubbly start, they moved on to “Lerchengsang” (The Lark’s Song), where once again the soprano demonstrated her ability to float quiet high notes over the tranquil accompaniment of the piano. Ms. Thompson was ever sensitive to balance during this light piece. “I close my eyes gently; There pass memories of soft twilights, pervaded with the breath of Spring.”

Each of these Brahms’ pieces was a performed elegantly.

The last part of the program was the song cycle Kherdian Songs for piano, soprano, and clarinet, composed by SSU Music Department Chair Brian Wilson.  Ms. Menke frequently debuts Mr. Wilson’s pieces, and originally this cycle was written for either chamber orchestra or piano accompaniment alone. One cannot imagine the cycle without the clarinet as it added atmospheric depth to every piece. The poetry was written by David Kherdian, a friend of the composer. The six poems are drawn from the poet’s childhood experiences that are easily accessible and universal to most people: demonstrating the wonder that children experience with new and simple things, humorous stories adults reflect on about mortality, coming to terms with death for the first time and the importance of mothers.

These compositions are influenced by jazz tonalities and rhythms and each piece was tonally linked to the others and had its own sense of identity. “O but our treacherous BB guns” had somewhat of a death tango undertone, and a poignantly comic ending that elicited a chuckle from the audience.  “The First Sea Shell” with it’s long unearthly tones for soprano and clarinet illustrated the childlike wonder at hearing the ocean in a conch shell for the first time. This cycle also contained frequent interplay and echoing between the two instruments and the voice which tied it in nicely to the Brahms and Schubert works heard earlier in the program.

There was no encore.