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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
SRJC Chamber Concerts / Friday, April 16, 2010
Amelia Piano Trio

Amelia Piano Trio

POISED ON THE EDGE OF GREATNESS

by Steve Osborn
Friday, April 16, 2010

For its program at Santa Rosa’s Newman Auditorium on April 16, the Amelia Trio opted for three unknown piano trios by known composers: Debussy, Bernstein and Chopin. All three trios are the works of teenagers, composed around the ages of 18 (Debussy), 19 (Bernstein) and 18 (Chopin). Although they all qualify as juvenilia, each trio already contains many elements of the composer’s characteristic style.

Those characteristics were evident during the opening bars of the Debussy, which were suffused with his signature impressionist style. Lush and sensuous tones predominated, heightened by the Amelia’s utterly relaxed playing. The musicians were clearly well rehearsed, and the string players rarely consulted their scores. Instead of burying their heads in notes, they looked at each other meaningfully while filling the room with gorgeous sound. Glissandos were the order of the day. Violinist Anthea Kreston was remarkably fluid and assured, and her cellist husband Jason Duckles matched her with a beautiful tone that carried throughout the acoustically resonant space.

Complementing this elegant couple was the diminutive pianist Rieko Aizawa, who played with the lid fully open, the better to control her dynamics. She is a consummate chamber musician, never letting her instrument overpower the strings, but rising to the soloistic occasion when circumstances demand.

All three played the Debussy to the hilt, moving from the expansiveness of the first movement, to the well articulated pizzicatos of the second, to the enchanting cello solo in the third, and finally to the cascading rhythms and forward propulsion of the last. It was a great performance, and the music was clearly like Debussy, but it wasn’t one of the later masterpieces that make his work so distinctive. Instead of real Debussy, it was a debut.

The situation was much the same with the Bernstein trio, which he composed while an undergraduate at Harvard. The sparse beginning led to frantic string work over a steady piano. Here Aizawa’s playing stood out, her lines articulated with an assured attack. The piano is, after all, a percussion instrument, and she brought those qualities to the fore while acting as a foil to the fluid string work.

The Bernstein unfolded as one might expect for a work written in 1937, when the jazzy rhythms of New York City were still relatively new. There was lots of pizzicato, lots of starts and stops, lots of playfulness. Again, it wasn’t a masterpiece, but it contained many of the familiar styles that bloomed in West Side Story and On the Town.

As for Chopin, the rarity of the trio performance was made extra rare by Kreston’s decision to play the violin part on a viola. In a witty introduction, she explained how Chopin himself had expressed the view that he should have written the violin part for viola, given that it “would accord better with the cello.” Indeed, most of the action occurs on the D and A strings, a domain that the viola shares with the violin. Based on this evidence, Kreston transcribed the violin part to the viola, retaining almost all the original notes, with only occasional forays downward.

Whatever the historical authenticity, Kreston demonstrated that she is a consummate chin player, equally at home on the violin, viola, or any other instrument that might fit under her chin. Her viola did indeed accord beautifully with the cello, particularly in the second movement, which features an extended duet between the two instruments.

As is inevitable with Chopin, however, the piano eventually came to the fore. After three movements of relatively balanced music, the fourth opened with a big piano solo and went on from there. It’s the only movement that really sounds like Chopin, with evocative Polish dance themes emerging from a filigree of notes. Both Kreston and Duckles stood aside as Aizawa played Chopin to the max. Like everything else on the program, it was a great performance, offering a lucid view of the composer’s early strivings toward a mature style.

That view summed up the entire performance. Three composers poised on the edge of greatness, played by a trio that is just beginning to hit its prime.