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Symphony
CONDUCTOR PLAYOFFS BEGIN IN SANTA ROSA
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 08, 2017
The Santa Rosa Symphony is calling 2017-18 “a choice season” because the next few months offer the audience and the symphony’s board of directors a chance to choose a new conductor from a pool of five candidates. Each candidate will lead a three-concert weekend set this fall and winter, with a final...
Symphony
DVORAK AND TCHAIKOVSKY ORCHESTRAL COLOR AT SO CO PHIL SEASON OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 30, 2017
A concert with curious repertoire and splashy orchestral color launched the 19th season of the Sonoma County Philharmonic Sept. 30 in Santa Rosa High School’s Auditorium. Why curious? Conductor Norman Gamboa paired the ever-popular Dvorak and his rarely heard 1891 trilogy In Nature’s Realm, with t...
Recital
ELEGANT PIANISM IN WATER MUSIC CHARMS HOUSE RECITAL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 03, 2017
A standard component of house concerts often involve listeners hearing the music but also smelling the lasagna and seeing the champagne in the adjacent kitchen. But it was not the case Sept. 3 at Sandra Shen’s Concerts Grand House Recital performance, as her riveting piano playing enthralled the sm...
Chamber
YOUNG MUSICIANS SHINE AT PIANO SONOMA CONCERT
by Lee Ormasa
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
The third in a series of four concerts by Piano Sonoma artists in residence, part of the Vino and Vibrato Series, was held August 1 in Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center. Entitled “The Masters,” the program included works by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. Piano Sonoma is a summer artist-in...
Chamber
THRILLING PROGRAM CLOSES VOM CHAMBER FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, July 30, 2017
The finale of the two-week Valley of the Moon Music Festival closed July 30 with “The Age of Bravura” concert at the Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. The musical selections held to this year’s Festival theme “Schumann’s World - His Music and the Music He Loved.“ This summer Festival features chamber mus...
Chamber
PERIOD INSTRUMENTAL SOUND AT PENULTIMATE VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 30, 2017
In the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival’s penultimate concert July 30 the perennial issue of period and modern instruments was apparent. But only in the concluding Mendelssohn Trio, as the performances in the two first half works easily avoided instrumental comparisons. Clara Schumann’s t...
Chamber
ECLECTIC REPERTOIRE IN FETCHING VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 22, 2017
One of the purposes of summer music festivals is to present unfamiliar music in an attractive and often small audience setting. The Valley of the Moon Music Festival delightfully met these requirements July 22 and 23 with two concerts in the small hall at Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. Classical Sono...
Recital
ADAMS' PHRYGIAN GATES HIGHLIGHTS MORKOSKI FESTIVAL PERFORMANCE
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Attendees at the Molly Morkoski Mendocino Music Festival recital July 22 were in for a treat, both pianistically and if they happened to buy a tasty cookie during intermission. The program included Beethoven’s Op. 27 Moonlight Sonata, Adams’ Phrygian Gates, a surprise add-on of Grieg’s Holberg Suit...
Symphony
SOARING VERDI REQUIEM CLOSES 31ST MENDOCINO FESTIVAL
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
We speak frequently about how there is nothing like the experience of a live performance. Seldom was this truer than at the July 22 closing performance of the two-week Mendocino Music Festival. The Festival Orchestra, conducted by of Allan Pollack, joined with the Festival Chorus in a moving renderi...
Recital
ORGAN REGISTRATION MASTERY HEARD IN WALHAIN'S RECITAL
by Robert Young
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
A group of 65 lucky attendees July 18 had the pleasure of hearing Etienne Walhain’s recital at the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa. Mr. Walhain is organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Tournai, Belgium, and played to a varied program Bach, Franck, and Reger. He used the tonal resource...
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.