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Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
Chamber
UNEXPECTED ARENSKY AND MENDELSSOHN BY THE NAVARRO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
The 100 people entering Schroeder Hall Feb. 17 for a Trio Navarro concert were handed a program that appeared to feature two popular piano trios, Mendelssohn and Arensky. But continuing the Navarro’s tradition of repertoire exploration, the pieces were not the usual first Mendelssohn and first Aren...
Recital
GLOVER'S ECLECTIC PROGRAMMING HIGHLIGHT'S CINNABAR RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
Daniel Glover is arguably the busiest virtuoso pianist in the San Francisco Bay area, but rarely is heard in North Bay concerts. So 90 local pianophiles were anxious to hear him Feb. 17 in Petaluma’s charming small Cinnabar Theater, and they were rewarded with an eclectic program of sometimes unfam...
Symphony
MENDELSSOHN'S SCOTTISH SAVES THE EVENING IN SRS WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Monday, February 11, 2019
The audience entering Weill Hall for Santa Rosa Symphony concerts Feb. 9-11 were presented with a program that on first glance appeared a curious patchwork – a great symphony mixed with a seldom heard concerto and two disparate overtures, and a guest conductor unknown locally. Monday night’s concer...
Recital
INTRIGUING BELL-HAYWOOD RECITAL BEFORE FULL HOUSE IN WEILL HALL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, February 08, 2019
A big portion of the capacity audience in Weill Hall February 8th came to hear violinist Joshua Bell’s virtuosity, and were treated as well to splendid playing from Sam Haywood, Mr. Bell’s regular pianist since 2010. The duo performed three engaging sonatas, highlighted by Mr. Bell’s sterling techn...
Symphony
TRIPLE PLAY UKIAH SYMPHONY CONCERT AND TCHAIKOVSKY SERENADE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Over the years the Ukiah Symphony’s concerts have been in the Classical Sonoma Calendar sections, but rarely has this Orchestra, now in its 39th season, had a full winter season concert review. The provocative Jan. 27 program in Mendocino College’s Center Theater seemed a good reason to reacquaint ...
Symphony
JACKSON THEATER WELCOMES A NEW RESIDENT ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Moving to a permanent new performance venue can be a perilous undertaking for an orchestra, with different acoustics, the loyal audience finding the new spot and infrastructure challenges of lighting and lobby and backstage operations. In their first concert Jan. 26 in Windsor’s Jackson Theater the...
Symphony
ECLECTIC PASSIONATE PROGRAMMING AT MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 26, 2019
The Marin Symphony’s second Masterworks concert of the 2018-19 season featured works by John Adams, Sibelius and Brahms, a masterful assembly. In a spoken introduction before the program’s first half, conductor Alasdair Neale primed the audience for the “terra incognita” of Adams’ The Chairman Dance...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Petaluma History Museum / Saturday, December 31, 2011
Elizabeth Walter and Members of the SF Symphony

Chu-Pai-Walter Trio Playing Dvorak Dec. 31 in Petaluma (Lauren Silagyi Photo)

CHU-PAI-WALTER TRIO RINGS IN 2012 AT PETALUMA HISTORICAL MUSEUM CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 31, 2011

Musical detours can bring unexpected surprises, and on New Year’s Eve this writer’s drive to Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater party stopped early for chamber music at the downtown Historical Museum. Sponsored by the Museum and the Sky Hill Cultural Alliance, the concert with gratis holiday refreshments featured two string players from San Francisco and local pianist Elizabeth Walter.

Handel’s Passacaglia, the last movement of the G Minor Harpsichord Suite (BWV 432) was played in John Halvorsen’s transcription by violinist Yun Chu and cellist Shu-Yi Pai. The acoustics favored Ms. Pai’s rich sound and she frequently covered Mr. Chu in the early variations, the latter’s unsteady with high register pitch problems. Things finally settled down as the compelling counterpoint unfolded, the pizzicato duo playing and deft phrasing impressive. The last variation was a frenzy of speed and notes and brought a loud ovation from the nearly full house.

Sky Hill Alliance Director Elizabeth Walter was the evening’s pianist, programming three Chopin works and Ginestera’s Op. 22 Sonata. Ms. Walter is a forceful artist with often a forced tone, the hall’s instrument assisting with absence of treble overtones. The F Minor Study from the Trois Nouvelles Etudes was played with the right-hand melody triplets carrying well over the accompaniment, and briskly, as was the following C Minor Nocturne from Op. 48. A powerfully dramatic work with imposing octaves, the Nocturne received a capable but less-than-polished performance but one that conveyed agitation. Cascades of sound also characterized Ms. Walter’s second Chopin Ballade in F, Op. 38. The alteration of folk-like charm and sonorous outbursts had the requisite drive from the artist’s strong fingers and she held the damper pedal, after the long fortissimo carnage, into the eight-measure coda. An innocent and effective closure.

Ending the first half was the Ginastera from 1952, an odd choice for a New Year’s Eve concert with social components. The Classical Sonoma critic’s rule book advises that the artist selects the works and the reviewer’s job is to report on the playing. The Sonata, played from score, was a brawny and loud component to the evening and one’s mind turned to a bevy of more cordial works to spotlight the musical season. That said, the playing was the best solo work of the evening, the memory stumbles in the Chopin vanishing. In the first two movements the swirl of repeated notes, often in a toccata style, were distinct and recall Ginastera’s earlier Danza del Gaucho Matrero from the Danzas Argentinas. Arpeggiated chords in the Adagio molto appassiona had a mystical character reminiscent of the famous six-note Scriabin Prometheus chord, and the pianist caught the languorous nature of the music. The precipitato finale was potent, the off-beat accents contributing to the momentum and climatic conclusion. Not exactly party music but clearly an assured reading by Miss Walter. On this evidence she is a Ginastera champion.

Dvorak’s popular Op. 90 Trio (Dumky) comprised the second half and had a great opening, Mr. Chu’s singing line leading the way and Ms. Pai’s cello again forceful. This six-movement work from 1890 is jammed with sharp contrasts, alterations of yearning melody and wild gaiety. There was a lovely threnody in the second movement’s piano-violin duo and lyrical, bucolic playing in the vivacious Andante. The rolled chords at the end were chaste Dvorak and mesmerizing in the Trio’s hands.

More movements unfolded, rhapsodic and Bohemian in the fourth and a fierce dance in the concluding Maestoso. Here Ms. Pai’s cello rumbled and Ms. Walter’s piano echoed the counterpoint and vitality.

Dvorak’s Trio is a unique work, far different from contemporary trios of Mendelssohn, Rubinstein, Brahms and Tchaikovsky, and the Chu-Pai-Walter ensemble gave an impassioned and lucid performance. No encore was offered.