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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...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
BEETHOVEN'S VALENTINE'S DAY GIFT IN RAC SEBASTOPOL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, February 14, 2020
Continuing a season of Redwood Arts Council successes, the Kouzov Duo performed an eclectic Valentine’s Day concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church before an audience of 125. Beethoven’s charming Op. 66 Variations on Mozart’s “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from the opera the Magic Flute was a bouncy ...
LUSH BACH PERFORMANCE IN DENK'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 13, 2020
Memorable artistic interpretations of musical masterpieces are often at extremes, and with the Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (WTC - Book I) that Jeremy Denk played in Weill Hall Feb. 13, the pianist was only sporadically at unique or ebullient musical ends. But his playing wasn’t exactly at opposite...
CHAMBER REVIEW

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.