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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
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.