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Symphony
CONDUCTOR PLAYOFFS BEGIN IN SANTA ROSA
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 08, 2017
The Santa Rosa Symphony is calling 2017-18 “a choice season” because the next few months offer the audience and the symphony’s board of directors a chance to choose a new conductor from a pool of five candidates. Each candidate will lead a three-concert weekend set this fall and winter, with a final...
Symphony
DVORAK AND TCHAIKOVSKY ORCHESTRAL COLOR AT SO CO PHIL SEASON OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 30, 2017
A concert with curious repertoire and splashy orchestral color launched the 19th season of the Sonoma County Philharmonic Sept. 30 in Santa Rosa High School’s Auditorium. Why curious? Conductor Norman Gamboa paired the ever-popular Dvorak and his rarely heard 1891 trilogy In Nature’s Realm, with t...
Recital
ELEGANT PIANISM IN WATER MUSIC CHARMS HOUSE RECITAL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 03, 2017
A standard component of house concerts often involve listeners hearing the music but also smelling the lasagna and seeing the champagne in the adjacent kitchen. But it was not the case Sept. 3 at Sandra Shen’s Concerts Grand House Recital performance, as her riveting piano playing enthralled the sm...
Chamber
YOUNG MUSICIANS SHINE AT PIANO SONOMA CONCERT
by Lee Ormasa
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
The third in a series of four concerts by Piano Sonoma artists in residence, part of the Vino and Vibrato Series, was held August 1 in Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center. Entitled “The Masters,” the program included works by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. Piano Sonoma is a summer artist-in...
Chamber
THRILLING PROGRAM CLOSES VOM CHAMBER FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, July 30, 2017
The finale of the two-week Valley of the Moon Music Festival closed July 30 with “The Age of Bravura” concert at the Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. The musical selections held to this year’s Festival theme “Schumann’s World - His Music and the Music He Loved.“ This summer Festival features chamber mus...
Chamber
PERIOD INSTRUMENTAL SOUND AT PENULTIMATE VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 30, 2017
In the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival’s penultimate concert July 30 the perennial issue of period and modern instruments was apparent. But only in the concluding Mendelssohn Trio, as the performances in the two first half works easily avoided instrumental comparisons. Clara Schumann’s t...
Chamber
ECLECTIC REPERTOIRE IN FETCHING VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 22, 2017
One of the purposes of summer music festivals is to present unfamiliar music in an attractive and often small audience setting. The Valley of the Moon Music Festival delightfully met these requirements July 22 and 23 with two concerts in the small hall at Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. Classical Sono...
Recital
ADAMS' PHRYGIAN GATES HIGHLIGHTS MORKOSKI FESTIVAL PERFORMANCE
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Attendees at the Molly Morkoski Mendocino Music Festival recital July 22 were in for a treat, both pianistically and if they happened to buy a tasty cookie during intermission. The program included Beethoven’s Op. 27 Moonlight Sonata, Adams’ Phrygian Gates, a surprise add-on of Grieg’s Holberg Suit...
Symphony
SOARING VERDI REQUIEM CLOSES 31ST MENDOCINO FESTIVAL
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
We speak frequently about how there is nothing like the experience of a live performance. Seldom was this truer than at the July 22 closing performance of the two-week Mendocino Music Festival. The Festival Orchestra, conducted by of Allan Pollack, joined with the Festival Chorus in a moving renderi...
Recital
ORGAN REGISTRATION MASTERY HEARD IN WALHAIN'S RECITAL
by Robert Young
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
A group of 65 lucky attendees July 18 had the pleasure of hearing Etienne Walhain’s recital at the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa. Mr. Walhain is organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Tournai, Belgium, and played to a varied program Bach, Franck, and Reger. He used the tonal resource...
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.