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Choral and Vocal
A SEASONAL MESSIAH WITH BALANCE AND HEFT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 10, 2017
The mid-December concert season seems for jaded reviewers to invariably include a Messiah performance, and perhaps a Messiah in a long string of similar and mundane performances. This was decidedly not the case when San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque mounted Handel’s eminent three-part 1742 Orato...
Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony concert featured two elegant and refined guests: music director candidate Andrew Grams and pianist Stewart Goodyear. Both displayed dazzling technique and consummate artistry, but Goodyear was the more consistent of the two. Some of Grams’ inconsistency may have st...
Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
Chamber
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the ...
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.