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Symphony
ZUILL PLAYS ZWILICH WITH SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The Santa Rosa Symphony took a cautious step toward the return of live music in their March 28 virtual concert by sharing the stage with an actual live soloist rather than an apparition. Star cellist Zuill Bailey was still masked, and his back was toward the equally masked and plexiglassed orchestra...
Chamber
ECLECTIC CELLO PIANO VIRTUAL RECITAL FROM TOMKINS ZIVIAN DUO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The venerable 41-year Redwood Arts Council Series in Occidental has joined the virtual recital world with low budget but artistically satisfying programs, mostly using videos filmed in the performer’s residences. March 28 saw the Tanya Tomkins-Eric Zivian duo present an eclectic program from their ...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HITS THE SWEET SPOT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Small orchestras can inhabit a sweet spot between chamber ensembles and full orchestras, but how well they hit that spot depends on the composer's orchestration and the players' ability to project. That dependence was on full display in the Santa Rosa Symphony's Feb. 28 concert, which featured three...
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...
CHAMBER REVIEW

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.