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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
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.