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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
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.