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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
Gramercy Trio / Friday, October 11, 2013
Sharan Leventhal, violin; Jonathan Miller, cello; Randall Hodgkinson, piano

Gramercy Trio in SRJC's Ellis Auditorium Oct. 11

MERCI BEAUCOUP, GRAMERCY

by Terry McNeill
Friday, October 11, 2013



The Boston-based Gramercy Trio opened the SRJC Chamber Music Series Oct. 11 with three trios that leaned heavily on powerful thematic projection and trenchant sound.

Before 160 people in SRJC's Ellis Auditorium in Petaluma, the Gramercy opened with a muscular reading of Beethoven's massive "Archduke" Trio in B Flat, Op. 97. Pianist Randall Hodgkinson pushed the pace throughout the work, playing spiky but effective sforzandos and seemingly insisting on more sonority from violinist Sharan Leventhal and cellist Jonathan Miller. During the Beethoven and throughout the evening Mr. Hodgkinson's playing was loud, but the instrumental balances were never off, nor did he cover his partners.

Mr. Miller's cello playing was a foundation in the opening Allegro Moderato after some pitch variance, and his sound was most rich in the lower registers. In the lovely Andante Cantabile, the violin line soared after an engaging duet with the cello, and Mr. Miller used drone-like passages to subtle effect.

The extended finale was at all times propulsive, the pianist occasionally smudging notes in the chase for a potent musical statement. It wasn't a performance for the timid, but I found it provocative and convincing.

Gunther Schuller's Third Piano Trio, a three-movement work from 2012, opened the second half. Commissioned by the Gramercy, the trio's complicated rhythmic structure struggles in the opening Tempo Moderato to be heard through an array of string slides and insistent outbursts and low-bass resister rumblings from the piano. Ms. Leventhal played captivating tremolos at the top of her violin's range. She continued these acrobatics in the Largo with a long double-stopped solo passage in the mid-range, with the cello playing in a mournful duet, many octaves apart.

Tremolos in all three instruments began the final movement Presto, then in syncopating rhythms, slipping into a pulsating and languorous tango style. The violin and piano lines interwove with a controlled frenzy that ended abruptly in a loud single bottom A in the piano.

One felt this daring work could not be played better, or with more visceral impact.

Could the high-voltage playing continue? It did indeed with a full-throttle reading of the wonderful Ravel Trio. The composer's high level of masterpieces surely includes this virtuosic piece from 1914. The Gramercy played the marvelous opening Modéré with élan and wider string vibrato than in the Beethoven. Breathless speed and enveloping climaxes unfolded in the second movement, with Mr. Hodgkinson playing just about every note of the piano. Elegant playing characterized the following Passacaglia, with the piano and cello in a dignified slow march and Ms. Leventhal's violin entering deftly to sweeten the texture.

Playing the impressionistic and faintly oriental concluding Animé with washes of color, the Trio was in an orchestral mood. The intricate counterpoint built inexorably to a fortissimo but wholly controlled finish. This was an irresistable Ravel performance, the three musicians completely at ease with their energetic conception.