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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 ...
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