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Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now they seem to be on almost ever...
Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the season’s final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church, as the performers...
CHAMBER REVIEW

Trio Navarro

TRIO NAVARRO TURNS QUARTET AT SSU

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, May 17, 2009

Season-ending chamber music concerts, especially in the spring, often feature repertoire of a less-demanding nature, light as May breezes. The Trio Navarro would have none of that at their May 17 concert, programming two massive piano quartets, both demanding focus and stamina from the performers and the 60 listeners in Sonoma State’s Ives Hall.

Adding the wonderful violist Nancy Ellis to their longstanding ensemble, the Navarro plunged first into the Piano Quartet of William Walton, written in 1919 when the composer was only 17. It’s an assured work, filled with the harmonic language of Ravel and the drive of a lesser-known Gallic composer, Louis Vierne, whose great Piano Quintet mirrors the dynamism of the Walton as much as Ravel’s rich intervals. The presence of the viola, and perhaps the close proximity of the shell to the piano, made for a better sonic balance than the usual emphasis on low (mostly cello) frequencies in Ives 119. Roy Malan’s violin high tessitura sounded radiant, particularly at the end of the opening Allegramente movement , where his telling five-note phrase over cello and viola pizzicato provided a breathtaking reprise from the tumult.

Stridency continued in the Allegro Scherzando, with a three-instrument string fugue, led by cellist Jill Brindel. Pianist Marilyn Thompson finally entered with an orchestral sound. The Navarro caught the menacing nature of the music, announced by a descending triad and continuing with another fugue to the finish. There is little connection with any other composer here, the writing demonic and wholly individual.

The lyrical third movement was totally different, with strumming arpeggios from the piano. Brindel’s cello sang a lovely theme, handing it off to Ellis’s viola, and there was just an echo of Vaughan William’s “Lark Ascending” from Malan’s elegant violin.

The finale returned to tone-cluster outbursts from the piano, and to rhythms that paralleled Stravinsky’s Petrouchka. Here the Trio’s interplay of line was superb, the bright acoustics of Ives contributing to the impact. Sforzandos in the piano’s bass came thick and fast, an accession to the thunder of Walton’s conception. This was a striking performance of a rarely played piano quartet, and bravos from the audience were plentiful.

Following intermission, the Navarro presented another piano quartet, the Op. 26 Brahms in A Major. The opening theme from the piano continued the dense textures of the Walton but added masterful counterpoint. The tempos were leisurely, but the momentum was never lost, with Thompson’s piano line sensuously underpinning the strings. Everything was serene in the Poco Adagio, pedal points in the piano and heart-on-sleeve romanticism lending a nostalgic air to the movement. There are big contrasts and thematic equality in this movement, and the Navarro made the most of them, with the cello frequencies sometimes being felt on my feet, planted firmly on the wood risers at the back of the room.

The Scherzo’s “question and answer” sections were a premonition of the rambunctious, ardently played Finale. The Brahms is a long work, and coming after the Walton, it stretched the listener’s attention. Nonetheless, I found the reading convincing.

Closing a three-concert SSU season, the Navarro’s virtuosic performance gave no reason to alter my view that this is the finest resident piano trio (with estimable guest performers) in Northern California.