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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
Oakmont Concert Series / Thursday, October 16, 2008
LINCOLN PIANO TRIO

LINCOLN TRIO DOES HONEST ABE PROUD

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 23, 2008

It’s a flood tide for piano trios in the North Bay. For years SSU’s Trio Navarro has given numerous wonderful concerts, and recently the Tilden Trio (San Rafael) and the fledgling Sequoia Trio (Santa Rosa) have entered the fray. October 16 found a travelling troupe, Chicago’s Lincoln Trio, proving again the viability of the classical combination of piano, violin and cello.

Before an Oakmont Concerts Series of 200, the Lincoln began with Mendelssohn, but not the most popular of trios, the D Minor. This afternoon started with the C Minor, Op. 66, and it was a felicitous selection. Pianist Marta Aznavoorian quickly seized the leading role, the opening Allegro Energetico fleetly unfolding with just a touch of shady menace. The excellent ensemble continued through an elegant Andante Espressivo, sad and plaintive, and with a fast interplay of voices in the energetic third-movement Scherzo. Violinist Desiree Ruhstrat’s lovely pianissimo led to a bantamweight ending, and the finale Allegro Appassionato was a concentrated romp. Cellist David Cunliffe, solving some pesky pitch problems, supported the long line of the last movement. with its captivating interior Bach chorale.

Concluding the first half was “Autumn” from Piazzola’s “Four Seasons of Buenos Aires.” The Argentinean master’s music isn’t usually associated with a piano trio, but here the tango-themes made good sense, led by the cello and slow arpeggios from the piano. The long slides in the violin were sparkling, and the short work ended with a
spicy, almost lascivious piano glissando. The audience loved it.

Two works comprised the second half, one novel and one as familiar as the warm fall day outside the hall. A hybrid work, Lawrence Dillons’ “The Better Angels of our Nature,” came from a commission that required the words of Lincoln to be woven into a musical texture. Here the narrator was Oakmont’s own Victor Spear, renowned chess historian and, with his wife Jane, an avid classical-music concertgoer. There were three long passages taken from the President’s letters or public statements, titled Integrity, Humor and Vision. Each came from the podium accompanied by the Trio’s musings, more background and pastoral than an equal partner with Dr. Spear’s stentorian locution. The background texture comprised slow rolled piano chords, high register string unisons and snippets of pizzicato and sforzando phrases. Lincoln’s word had dignity and heft, the music pretty forgettable but having in a long coda the last word.

Brahms wrote at least six popular trios, the Piano Trio No. 2 in C Major, Op. 87, coming from 1882. It’s never had the emotional impact for me as the earlier B Major Trio (Op. 8), but is a great work in the form, crammed with inspiration. In four movements, there are thematic relationships between the first and fourth and the architecture is sublime.

The Lincoln gave the work careful control of dynamics, often submerging the piano in the string sound. The episodic Andante Con Moto, the center of the work, opened with an absolute equanimity of unison strings, shimmering, and the sound finally melted into a tender but terminal void.

The animated finale was played with rich scales in all three instruments, Aznavoorian’s piano frequently anticipating the other’s entrances and pushing the tempo. It must be said that Ruhstrat has a refined violin sound, but the tone is not big or especially broad, something important for Brahms. Hers is not an “Oistrakh” sound, but in all ways secure and pliant, reflecting the discipline of her teacher, Aaron Rosand. Cunliff’s cello in this glorious Allegro giocoso supplied a firm bass, lacking perhaps only lush aggressiveness of the Tilden’s Peter Wyrick on the same stage two months ago. The racehorse ending brought the audience to its feet, but no encore was offered.

Artistically able to stand comparison with our resident and guest trios, the Lincoln is a fresh and professional addition to the chamber music scene, and one hopes they can return soon.