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Chamber
NOVEL OBOE-HARPSICHORD RECITAL FROM AIKEN DUO IN UKIAH
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Oboe and harpsichord recitals are a rare North Bay event, even in a pandemic environment where a formal hall setting isn’t available. So it was a delight Feb. 21 to experience on the Ukiah Symphony’s website a recital by Symphony oboist Beth Aiken and harpsichordist husband Tom. The Aiken home vis...
Symphony
A HEALTHY MIX OF TRANSCRIPTIONS AND ORIGINALS FROM THE SR SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Transcriptions and ascending arpeggios were the order of the day on Jan. 24, as the Santa Rosa Symphony performed uplifting works by Bach/Webern, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Marianna Martínes and Mozart. The concert video was made in Weill Hall on Jan. 9. The first transcription was Webern’s 1935 renderi...
Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
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