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Choral and Vocal
A SEASONAL MESSIAH WITH BALANCE AND HEFT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 10, 2017
The mid-December concert season seems for jaded reviewers to invariably include a Messiah performance, and perhaps a Messiah in a long string of similar and mundane performances. This was decidedly not the case when San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque mounted Handel’s eminent three-part 1742 Orato...
Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony concert featured two elegant and refined guests: music director candidate Andrew Grams and pianist Stewart Goodyear. Both displayed dazzling technique and consummate artistry, but Goodyear was the more consistent of the two. Some of Grams’ inconsistency may have st...
Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
Chamber
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the ...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Sonoma State University Department of Music / Sunday, November 18, 2012
Navarro Chamber Players. Carol Menke, soprano; Marilyn Thompson, piano

Soprano Carol Menke

FROM TRIO TO SEXTET

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sonoma State’s estimable Trio Navarro, long at the center of the North Bay chamber music scene, morphed into the Navarro Chamber Players on Nov. 18 in a Weill Hall concert that was both exhilarating and puzzling. The trio’s violinist Roy Malan and cellist Jill Rachuy Brindel were absent. Taking their chairs and more were violinists Joseph Edelberg and Kathryn Marshall, violist Betsy London and SSU faculty cellist Judiyaba. The sole Trio Navarro representative was Marilyn Thompson, who anchored the ensemble at piano.

The first half was devoted solely to Schumann’s E-Flat Major Quintet. In these capable hands, this celebrated work became enigmatic. Though the performance was in every way professional, the splendor of Schumann was defeated by the Weill Hall acoustics. How could this be in a hall now celebrated from Mumbai to Reykjavik? The usual pristine sound of the ensemble was lost when 100 people occupied a hall that seats 1,417 and has a 53-foot ceiling. From a sixth-row center seat, the opening Allegro with the lovely main theme was dull, the instrumental lines cloudy. The top tenor to the piano was only partially audible and didn’t carry.

Moving way back to Row R helped, but now everything in this hard-charging piece was a little distant. The Scherzo was echt Schumann and produced the most distinctive impact. The problem was that Schumann’s lush harmonies, string doublings and constant legato would have been a delight in a full house, but in an essentially empty hall they were bouncing all over. Where is Schroeder Hall when we need it?

Following intermission, the ambiance and acoustical picture sharply changed. Joaquin Turina, a composer familiar to the Navarro, wrote his “Las Musas de Andelucia” in 1942. The ensemble performed six of the nine movements, being joined for two (“Melpómene” and “Erato”) by soprano Carole Menke.

Beginning with Mr. Edelberg and Ms. Thompson playing “Euterpe,” the rhythms were rumba-like but always clean, the light vibrato adding a snazzy touch. Even though Turina was from Seville, there was nothing Spanish in this bright section and the following “Talia,” a slow and amiable suite for string quartet, with a snappy pizzicato ending. Cellist Judiyaba was featured in the easygoing “Polomnia,” where the piano line has a Gershwinesque character. The piece was almost a threnody for cello, with a haunting note at the bottom of the instrument’s register carrying throughout the hall.

Ms. Menke sang the fourth section in high tessitura, accompanied by Ms. Thompson’s block chords, and in powerful Spanish, ended in a thrilling top note. String quartet tremolos introduced the penultimate “Erato” section, where Ms. Menke was again comfortable in her top register with unison strings. The concluding “Caliope” began somberly but sprang to life in a slow and beguiling dance.

Four lovely songs from Vaughan Williams came next, selections from “Along the Field,” with Ms. Menke joined by Mr. Edelberg’s solo violin. It was a perfect combination, especially when in the song “In the Morning,” the descending violin part intertwined with Ms. Menke’s elegant voice.

Three tangos from SSU resident composer Brian Wilson closed the concert. The first, “They Say Hope is Happiness,” features short blocks of sound with the piano weaving in and out. “It Is the Hour” had a syncopated dance-hall flavor with gentle dissonant chords, almost palm court. The slinky “O but Our Treacherous BB Guns” (from Kherdian Songs) was an adventurous composition with the quartet in frequent pizzicato.

All three tangos were gracefully written for the instruments and were a highlight of the evening, earning the composer (who was present) standing applause from performers and audience alike.