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Chamber
NOVEL OBOE-HARPSICHORD RECITAL FROM AIKEN DUO IN UKIAH
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Oboe and harpsichord recitals are a rare North Bay event, even in a pandemic environment where a formal hall setting isn’t available. So it was a delight Feb. 21 to experience on the Ukiah Symphony’s website a recital by Symphony oboist Beth Aiken and harpsichordist husband Tom. The Aiken home vis...
Symphony
A HEALTHY MIX OF TRANSCRIPTIONS AND ORIGINALS FROM THE SR SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Transcriptions and ascending arpeggios were the order of the day on Jan. 24, as the Santa Rosa Symphony performed uplifting works by Bach/Webern, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Marianna Martínes and Mozart. The concert video was made in Weill Hall on Jan. 9. The first transcription was Webern’s 1935 renderi...
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...
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.