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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, April 24, 2011
Roy Malan, violin
Jill Rachuy Brindel, cello
Marilyn Thompson, piano

Trio Navarro at SSU Easter Sunday Concert

ROREM'S KNOTTY SPRING MUSIC PLAYED BY TRIO NAVARRO AT SSU CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 24, 2011

Continuing a stellar history of innovative piano trio programming, the resident SSU Trio Navarro closed their season April 24 in an Easter Sunday concert replete with two large novelties and a slightly more familiar work by Beethoven.

Before 90 listeners in the Green Music Center’s orchestra rehearsal room, the Navarro first tackled Rorem’s Spring Music, an eclectic 1990 work premiered by the Beaux Arts Trio. In five extended movements, the music isn’t easy to easily assimilate and in his introductory remarks violinist Roy Malan alluded to the composer’s clever compositional nature and the sobriquet of music’s “bad boy.” Both references have validity, though in at least the last century George Antheil could lay claim to both epithets. But Rorem is very much alive, each of his many books a salacious experience and his large oeuvre provocative, especially in the non-vocal pieces.

The Spring Music I found haunting, the three instrumental lines often far apart and then often in unison, and an insistent rhythmic pulse everywhere in evidence save for a lyrical Fantasia section. In this section cellist Jill Rachuy Brindel has long solos in a low register and in duos with Roy Malan’s violin line. Low frequencies in the cello were rich. Pianist Marilyn Thompson never overpowered her colleagues and the part oddly was frequently removed from the instrumental texture with loud bass chord crashes and propulsive right-hand skips for the piano and high tessitura for the violin.

This is a work of sharp contrasts and often contradictory character, and also it’s a piece of glorious instrumental sound that the composer manipulates deftly and the afternoon’s highlight for this reviewer. Was it well played? I suspect so, at least on a single hearing amid the less-than-reverberant acoustics of the room.

The first half ended with a late 19th Century novelty, Carl Frühling’s A Minor Trio, Op. 40. It’s Brahmsian from the first measure and through four movements never retreats from an initial bucolic outlook. There are continual harmonic references to Franck’s Quintet, written 20 years earlier, and to the music of Louis Vierne and St. Saens’ lush tone poem “Omphales’s Spinning Wheel.” At times thick and insurgent harmonies blurred the lyrical nature of the work and it was at turns repetitious. The Navarro played it with gusto and a sprinkle of wrong notes in the piano. The big Brahms-like phrases in the coda of the finale Allegro vivace brought this strange work to a powerful conclusion.

If Rorem could be described as clever and Frühling imitative, neither could be said of Beethoven and his E-Flat Major Trio, Op. 70, No. 2, the sole second half work. The Bonn master is endlessly inventive in this cheerful trio, a close partner in style and sound to the Op. 69 cello sonata. There was cohesive playing in the opening Poco sostenuto as well as the following two Allegretto movements. The Narvarro’s strengths were readily apparent, rhythmic security and etched vocal lines, but also some sloppy ensemble playing and persistent intonation problems from Mr. Malan. In the Allegro finale there was stylish playing, the movement’s joy readily communicated. No encore was offered.

Finishing another exemplary season the Trio Navarro continued its long string of exploration of provocative works with the Rorem’s bracing music overshadowing the lyrical Frühling and the systematic Beethoven reading. An energetic balance indeed for a warm spring day concert.