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Opera
SPARKLING CIMAROSA OPERA HIGHLIGHTS MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kathryn Stewart
Friday, July 13, 2018
The Classical music era was a time of extraordinary innovation. Dominated by composers from the German-speaking countries, the period witnessed the handiwork of masterpieces by two classical giants, Haydn and Mozart. Both composers put forth a tremendous catalog of masterful works and perhaps to our...
Symphony
!PURA VIDA! A SONIC TRIUMPH FOR SO CO PHIL IN THRILLING COSTA RICA TOUR CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Long anticipated events, such as a great sporting game, gourmet feast, holiday trip or a concert, occasionally fall way short of expectations. The results don’t measure to expectations. With the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Costa Rica concert June 19, the performance exceeded any heated or tenuou...
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...
RECITAL REVIEW
Mastercard Performance Series / Sunday, April 19, 2015
Anne-Sophie Mutter, violin; Lynn Harell, cello; Yefim Bronfman, piano

Muter-Bronfman-Harrell Trio Taking Applause in Weill April 19 (Eisaku Photo)

STELLAR TRIO PLAYS ICONIC CHAMBER WORKS IN WEILL HALL CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 19, 2015

Virtuoso instrumentalists frequently get together in a trio for a few concerts with the resulting playing being exciting but the performance sounding a little unfinished. This was decidedly not what happened with the Mutter-Bronfman-Harrell Trio April 19 in Weill, as the two works on the program had been played many times recently during their long American tour.

Beginning with the iconic Beethoven “Archduke” Trio in B-Flat Major, Op. 97, the group chose moderate tempos and eschewed old school extended ritards. Two of the players, cellist Lynn Harrell and pianist Yefim Bronfman, gave the audience of 900 a fresh hearing of their artistry. Mr. Harrell’ s last local appearance in the Dvorak Concerto disclosed a deferential approach, but in this concert he found his footing and was more assertive, though in the opening Allegro he seldom played legato, but used a Louré technique, almost stopping the bow between each note within a slur. Regarding Mr. Bronfman, readers of Classical Sonoma may remember reviews of a coarse and pounding Liszt Sonata in Wells, and a technically brilliant but boring interpretation of the Tchaikovsky B-Flat Concerto on the Weill stage. Here he played with greater individuality, rustic charm and attention to his partner’s phrasing.

And violinist Anne Sophie Mutter? Her playing was solidly artistic with less of the pianissimo sans vibrato that characterized past sonata performances. In the variation that begins well into the Andante Cantabile she played without any vibrato, an expressive choice that can be haunting but in the Beethoven is seemed contrived and strange. She was the suave performer in the Trio with legato phrasing juxtaposed with Mr. Bronfman’s rollicking accented bass notes in the Scherzo.

The last movement, that delightfully skittish and humorous section, demands a lot of clarity but the Hall’s acoustics, especially with the too-fast tempo, made the ensemble sound muddy. The coda was played really presto and the composer’s marvelous combination of excitement, humor and even poignancy was seen from the ensemble but not often heard.

Tchaikovsky’s monumental A Minor Trio, Op. 50, comprised the second half and received a stirring performance that surprisingly didn’t include the usual cuts in the last movement, and especially the fugue variation. Ms. Mutter had unsteady intonation in the first big theme but settled down and with Mr. Harrell didn’t shy away from expressive portamentos. The cellist and violinist didn’t always have the same bowings, odd after so many tour performances of this elegiac Russian piece from 1881.

Mr. Bronfman’s big block chords were heavy handed and he is not colorist (colorists at the piano? Hofmann and Gieseking, and more recently Alicia de Larrocha). However, his playing was expressive and arresting, with the great solo in the first movement Tempo Molto Sostuendo passages and voice leading in the early variations of the Andante con Moto. The Mazurka (Variation 2) was captivating, as was the pedal point for the strings and the delicate treble “music box” piano tinkling in Variation 5.

The music (final variation and coda) ended with instrumental perfection – first appropriately powerful, then gradually subsiding to a lugubrious and ultimately funereal pianissimo. A provocative and suggestive great work, played with compulsion and palpable devotion.

The audience sprang to its feet and demanded three curtain calls, but received no encore from the smiling Trio.

Contributing to this review were Toscha Spalding and Jelly d'Neveu