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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
Deep Valley Chamber Music / Saturday, February 04, 2012
Elena Casanova, piano; Joel Cohen, cello; Roy Malan, violin and Philip Santos, violin, Elizabeth Prior, viola

Cellit Joel Cohen

CAPTIVATING DOHNANYI AND ELGAR IN UKIAH'S DEEP VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 04, 2012

If the nearly 300 people at a Feb. 4 Ukiah concert are an indication, the Deep Valley Chamber Music series has finally arrived. One of the best-kept secrets in North Coast music, Deep Valley has been presenting increasingly challenging repertoire and first-cabin musicians since 2008, and the “Midwinter”concert in First Presbyterian Church was provocative and ultimately satisfying.

Provocative? Chamber music by Dohnanyi (his Serenade for String Trio) and Elgar (his A Minor Piano Quintet) are rarely-played items, and the Brahms Cello Sonata wasn’t one of the usual two, but a transcription for cello of his first Violin Sonata in G. Redwood Valley cellist Joel Cohen and Ukiah pianist Elena Casanova began with the Brahms, always curious because the so familiar and rich-hued themes have to take on the cello’s resonance and the lower (darker) pitch. Recent hearings of the work, by violinist Alexander Barantshik in Santa Rosa (G Major) and cellist Joyce Geeting (D Major), were not offset by the Ukiah performance. Mr. Cohen, oddly playing from score, has a lovely bottom-end sound, favored by the hall’s acoustics, and adopted a brisk and no-nonsense tempo in the vivace. This was not a note-perfect performance and a page-turner’s slip affected more than once the ensemble. Ms. Casanova was an aggressive partner throughout, not bass heavy in the coda but redeeming herself in the final two chords.

The pianist brought out seductive inner voices in the lovely second movement Adagio and here the partnership was excellent, Mr. Cohen’s dynamic control and double stops deftly executed. In the finale the thematic connection with the first movement was explored in a magisterial way, the quiet ending enhanced by an elegant cello grace note in the last bar.

Dohanyi’s music is often allied with Brahms, but in the 1904 Op. 10 Serenade there was none of the German master, but a lot of Dvorak and Magyar influences. Joining Mr. Cohen were violist Roy Malan and violist Elizabeth Prior to craft a riveting and convincing reading of the five-movement work. Ensemble was impeccable throughout, the long line of the viola in the Romanza and pizzicato duet of cello and viola over Mr. Malan’s soaring violin captivating. Often I have heard a sharp edge to Mr. Malan’s tone, especially in the high registers, but the acoustics were warm and direct here and his playing all evening was exemplary. The Scherzo was a presto romp with Mr. Cohen’s cello singing out, the dramatic playing underscored by many false cadences. Inter-movement applause seemed finally appropriate.

The Serenade tends to wander structurally, but in a way musician love (as in Schubert’s “heavenly length”) and in this performance highlighting the composer’s consummate invention. A propulsive Rondo concluded the work, Mr. Malan’s clean scale playing carrying to the back of the hall and ultimately bringing at the final chords the audience to its feet in appreciation.

The long intermission in a long concert featured only Elgar’s Op. 84 Quintet, and in the first movement it’s a very un-Edwardian Elgar. Ms. Casanova returned to the piano, joined by Hayward-based violinist Philip Santos and the string trio, to play a surging first movement. Here the composer lurking was perhaps Franck, and the feeling of a romantic approach of 1880 palpable in a movement from 1918. It’s easy but dangerous to conclude that Elgar’s Quintet grew out of the carnage of the War, but if it’s there at all, it would be in the opening chordal and chromatic Moderato-Allegro. Ms. Casanova pushed the pace and incisively contrasted the opening march and the curious “palm court” waltz sections. Major and minor alternate a lot here and Ms. Prior’s voice leading was exquisite.

A more familiar Elgar, of the Enigma Variations and Violin Concerto, returns in the Adagio which was elegantly played. Mr. Santos and Mr. Malan sounded as one and Mr. Cohen played the piano phrases with great subtlety. In this group’s hands the movement took on a threnody character, the interplay of vocal lines attainting radiance. A triumphant finale, modulating often, was demanding on each performer with sweeping arpeggio patterns that required Ms. Casanova’s most concentrated playing of the evening. The massive final chords, from the low cello and the pianist’s bottom E to the high strings, resounded to loud applause and cheers.

Though each of concert’s musicians performs constantly all over the North Bay area, they seldom have schedules that allow them to perform together, making the virtuosity of the instrumental mix an affecting achievement.