Sunday, 14 July 2024

'Mozart Masterpieces' a major hit at weekend concert

KELSEYVILLE – Every time 18th century composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart makes a posthumous appearance in Lake County he generates large audiences, and last Sunday's symphonic concert was no exception.

A near-overflow crowd jammed Kelseyville High School's student center to hear conductor John Parkinson lead the Lake County Symphony in an all-Mozart program consisting of a mixture of full-orchestra numbers and selections targeting the talents of individual players.

The concert was presented by Clear Lake Performing Arts in collaboration with the Mendocino College Lake Center.

The opening number featured all 40-plus members of the orchestra in one of Mozart's most beloved works, the overture from Mozart's first and arguably most successful – operas. “The Abduction from the Seraglio” tells the story of the kidnapping of a noble Spanish woman by Barbary pirates and her subsequent rescue by her beloved. Written in 1782 it was an instant smash hit, and continues to be so to this day, with the overture obviously being familiar to Sunday's audience.

This was followed by the “Sinfonia Concertante Quartet” with the orchestra headlined by a breakout group consisting of Beth Aiken, oboe; Nick Biondo, clarinet; Ann Hubbard, bassoon; and Randy Masselink, horn. The first three are all Lake County residents, while Masselink hails from Healdsburg.

The virtually flawless playing of the four soloists won enthusiastic acclaim from the audience as the soaring notes of Aiken's oboe meshed with the lilting swirl of Biondo's clarinet, and both instruments were first led, then answered, by the mellow tones of Hubbard's bassoon and Masselink's horn.

Between movements Parkinson dryly noted that one of the drawbacks of woodwind performances is the necessity to pause briefly from time to time to clean out valves, which Aiken did.

The next soloist was Darrin Michaels, whose history in playing the horn has included appearances throughout California with musical groups ranging from full orchestras to the popular Dora Street Brass Quintet. He played Mozart's “Horn Concerto No. 3” a particularly difficult piece the composer wrote originally for his lifelong friend Joseph Leutgeb, undoubtedly one of the premier horn players of his time.

Like Leutgeb, Michaels played with his right hand thrust into the bell of his instrument. Leutgeb did this because with the valveless horn of the time, he was able to change the music by as much as a full note.

In Michaels' case he said the same technique permits him to “mellow out” the sound, so it sounds less like a hunting horn and more like a musical instrument, and also to change intonation to stay in tune with the orchestra. These techniques, coupled with his absolute mastery of his instrument, resulted in a thunderous round of applause at the completion of his piece.

Following intermission, with complimentary cookies served by members of the Clear Lake Performing Arts Auxiliary, the orchestra took up Mozart's “Symphony No. 40 in G Minor” one of his latest and best-known works. This piece clearly demonstrates why Mozart continues to be so popular, with its musical brilliance and memorable themes.

The obviously knowledgeable audience properly withheld their applause until the conclusion of the final movement, at which point they were on their feet to give Parkinson and the orchestra a tremendous standing ovation.

Parkinson later noted that Lake County audiences were an asset when he recruits musicians from other places. “The out-of-town musicians always say they love to play with the Lake County Symphony because of the great reception they're given here,” he said.

The size and superior acoustics of the Kelseyville High School Student Center also gives more people the chance to attend these concerts. Paul Brewer, president of CLPA, said his group as well as the orchestra, are grateful to the Kelseyville Unified School District for making the facility available.

The next and final symphony concert of the year will take place on Dec. 16 at the same venue. It will be the perennially popular Christmas Celebration and this year will spotlight well-known jazz vocalist Paula Samonte, as well as youthful local musicians Laura and Darin Smith playing fiddle and cello duets, with John Parkinson conducting the orchestra.

The concert will start at 3 p.m., with admission still pegged at $10 for CLPA members, $15 for the general public and youngsters under 18 admitted free.

For more information call 707-277-7076 or visit


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