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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 / Sunday, February 28, 2010
Roy Malan, violin; Jill Rachuy Brindel, cello; Kumarin Arul, piano

Roy Malan and Kumaran Arul

TRIO NAVARRO WITHOUT THE O

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 28, 2010

In a sharp change from past concerts, the Trio Navarro gave an abbreviated program Feb. 28 in Sonoma State University’s Ives Hall, reflecting a temporary substitution in personnel. Marilyn Thompson, the Trio’s founding pianist, was absent due to pending shoulder surgery, and the anticipated trios of Cassadó and Catoire could not be managed in the available rehearsal time. What was presented was a blend of some familiar works and something quite rare.

Joining violinist Roy Malan and cellist Jill Rachuy Brindell was Stanford University faculty artist Kumaran Arul. Mr. Arul is no stranger to Sonoma County, having played recently on the Absolute Music Series. More importantly, he paired with Mr. Malan at last summer’s Mendocino Music Festival in the Dvorak Sonatina and the Grieg C Minor Sonata. These works, with Ms. Brindell acting as page turner, constituted the first half.

Once called a “student work,” the G Major Sonatina, Op. 100, reflects American Indian and African-American influences from the Czech composer’s 1893 stay in Spillville, Iowa. The opening had the requisite joy and Dvorak phrasing, and the following Larghetto was a lovely lyrical lament with Mr. Arul’s control of pianissimo faultless and Mr. Malan’s double stops precise. The third movement, seemingly a village dance, found the two instruments in “question and answer” phrasing, with the piano often covering the violin. The final Allegro was a rollicking dance with syncopated rhythms, bursting with themes unique to Dvorak. The lyrical middle part was reminiscent of Hollywood movie scores, ending with the violin secure at the top of its register.

Grieg’s great Violin Sonata, Op. 45, is a stern test for musicians. The Sonoma State performance was similar to the reading of last July, the main theme appearing as a lovely duo. A few notes were changed by Mr. Arul during his first statement of the grand theme, but the balances were good, and the coda was powerful and thrilling. The Romanza second movement is one of the composer’s most inspired creations, and Mr. Malan was totally at home in the lyricism. He played the descending passage at the end with wide vibrato, then an ascending phrase which leads up to an E natural, two octaves above the open E string. Here, unlike the performance on the Coast, he took almost no vibrato, as a harmonic. The audience was in breathless silence.

Mr. Malan dug deep in the finale, taking the downward second theme quite slowly to a rich tenor area with a wide vibrato. Here the piano covered much of the string sound, not stemming from any lack of effective pianism but presumably due to the room’s acoustics and linoleum tile floor surface. The ending had great impact and a complete unity of artistry.

Praise for the Grieg aside, the musical highlight for this reviewer was five of Bruch’s Eight Pieces for Piano and Two Instruments. The two instruments have included the violin, viola, clarinet and cello, and of course here Ms. Brindell joined Mr. Malan and Mr. Arul in a cogent and committed performance. Three of the pieces are lyrical, but in a somber and sad way, songful but tending towards nostalgia. Even the third work, at a fast tempo, had the same compositional nature. The addition of the rich cello line, always forward in Ives Hall, blended well with the piano. The fourth was an individual favorite, Mr. Malan’s violin singing phrases in a high register over handfuls of arpeggios from the piano, and ultimately unison cello and violin lines combining beautifully.

The Bruch doesn’t allow easy identification. There are short bits of Brahms, but the language is different enough to defy a tie-in with another composer. I would enjoy hearing the complete set in whatever form the Trio Navarro chooses.