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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
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.