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Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
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.