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Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now they seem to be on almost ever...
Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the season’s final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church, as the performers...
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.