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Green Days

Local chamber music fest a world-class event

By Greg Cahill

After 10 years as conductor for the Santa Rosa Symphony, Jeffrey Kahane has packed up his baton in preparation for a move this fall to his new post with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. But Kahane remains as music director of the Green Music Festival, an annual event he has shaped into one of the finest chamber-music events in Northern California.

The festival's sixth season will be held July 4-30 at Sonoma State University on and near the sprawling grounds of the planned $47 million arts complex named for its chief benefactor, local philanthropist Don Green.

Once again, Kahane--a celebrated pianist who has programmed a pair of phenomenal jazz piano concerts into this season--has blessed the event with young talent. Most notable is the return of the Grammy-winning St. Lawrence String Quartet, one of the world's most acclaimed chamber ensembles and quartet-in-residence at Stanford University.

Other featured performers include the violinists Chee-Yun and Lindsay Deutsch; violists Aloysia Friedmann and Nokuthula Ngwenyama (who recently released a fascinating musical tribute to martyred revolutionary Che Guevara); cellists Alisa Weilerstein and Peter Wyrick; contrabassist Stephen Tramontozzi; pianist Jon Kimura Parker; Cuban jazz keyboard virtuoso Gonzalo Rubalcaba; and renowned jazz pianist Fred Hersch with his trio.

Here's the schedule:

Monday, July 4, from 4pm to 10pm: Guest conductor Jeff Tyzik leads the Santa Rosa Symphony in an outdoor pops concert, replete with food and wine, John Williams film scores, children's games and a fireworks display.

Friday, July 8, at 8pm: The St. Lawrence String Quartet headlines a mixed program of modern works and Romantic-era classics that includes the Astor Piazzolla-inspired Last Round by Osvaldo Golijov, with violinists Deutsch and Chee-Yun, violist Friedmann, teen cellist Weilerstein, and contrabassist Tramontozzi. The program also includes Brahms' C Minor Piano Quartet (with Chee-Yun, Ngwenyama, Weilerstein and Kahane); and the increasingly popular Mendelssohn Octet with Deutsch, Chee-Yun, Friedmann and Weilerstein joining the St. Lawrence String Quartet.

Sunday, July 10, at 4pm: Violinists Deutsch and Chee-Yun perform Prokofiev's Sonata for Two Violins; violist Ngwenyama joins the St. Lawrence String Quartet for Mozart's D Major Viola Quintet; and Chee-Yun, Weilerstein and Kimura offer Tchaikovsky's Piano Trio.

Tuesday, July 12, at 8pm: Pianists Kahane and Parker perform Schubert's Fantasy in F Minor for Four Hands, Gershwin's An American in Paris, and Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances for Two Pianos (Kahane is one of the world's foremost interpreters of Rachmaninoff).

Thursday, July 14, at 8pm: Violist Ngwenyama and Kahane team up for Schumann's Fairy Tales for Viola and Piano; violinist Deutsch and cellist Wyrick perform Kodaly's Duo; and Deutsche, Ngwenyama, Wyrick and Kahane deliver Dvorak's E Flat Piano Quartet.

Sunday, July 17, at 4pm: Kahane launches the Piano Music Series with a solo concert of Bach's Goldberg Variations, which he will reprise three days later at the Ravinia Festival in Illinois.

Saturday, July 23, at 8pm: pianist Fred Hersch's trio presents an evening of contemporary jazz. Hersch is the recipient of a 2003 Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship for composition and two Grammy nominations for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance. Jazziz magazine has written of Hersch that "few jazz pianists have ever struck as beguiling a balance between technique, feeling, insight and imagination. . . . Hersch's engagement with each of these songs is so complete that he evokes the sort of secret meanings words cannot."

Saturday, July 30, at 8pm: The festival closes with a much-anticipated solo piano appearance by Afro-Cuban jazz player Gonzalo Rubalcaba, the Grammy-winning Blue Note artist (Rubalcaba has been nominated for the award eight times). Rubalcaba is known for his ability to blend Cuban and American influences--just check out his contribution to bassist Charlie Haden's 2002 noirish jazz release Nocturne.

Admission to the Independence Day pops concert on the SSU campus, ranges from $10-$55. Tickets for the chamber music and piano series, held at the Evert B. Person Theatre on the SSU campus, are $12-$35. Various festival ticket packages also are available. 1801 E. Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park. 866.SSU.FEST.

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From the June 15-21, 2005 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

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