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Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s Sonoma Overt...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
Chamber
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, perfor...
Symphony
AMERICAN CLASSICS SPARKLE UNDER KAHANE’S BATON
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Jeffrey Kahane, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s former conductor, returned to the Weill Hall podium on Saturday night, and the results were expectedly wonderful. The concert of American classics was by turns playful (Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”), emotional (Barber’s violin concerto) and triumphant (...
Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Green Music Center / Sunday, November 15, 2015
Lincoln Trio. Desirée Rushstrat, violin; David Cunliffe, cello; Marta Aznavoorian, piano

Lincoln Trio

LUMINOUS CLARKE AND BRAHMS FROM THE LINCOLN IN SCHROEDER

by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, November 15, 2015

Reveling in bold gestures and fine detail, the Chicago based Lincoln Trio performed Nov. 15 in Schroeder Hall, and gave a beautiful and masterful concert of works by Beethoven, Clarke and Brahms. Violinist Desirée Ruhstrat on violin, cellist David Cunliffe and Marta Aznavoorian (piano) have played together since 2003, and they are an elegant ensemble and not three fine soloists assembled for a while. They mix programs of well-known works with new compositions of contemporary repertoire Among their CDs is a program called Notable Women and another featuring trios by Turina.

The acoustics of the handsome and comfortable Schroeder Hall allowed the Lincoln to communicate the music with clarity and excellent balance between strings and piano. The lovely magenta and cobalt blue gowns worn by the women were elegant and visually complemented the playing.

Beethoven's Opus 11 Trio from 1798 was originally intended for clarinet, cello and piano, but to have it more widely played the composer arranged the clarinet part for violin. Ms. Ruhstrat gave us a performance that was convincing and the color of a clarinet was not lacking. The first movement opened with authority and took us through the excitement of mood and key changes, playful sometimes, emphatic at others, and then gentle dolce themes juxtaposed with wild passages. The adagio second movement features a transcendently lovely cello solo in the tenor clef which is passed around to the others and is one of those Beethoven movements that can move and delight effortlessly. The playing was subtle, every phrase intelligently shaped, and the instruments sang to us. The last movement is in fact based on a song, a popular aria well known at that time: "Before I play I must have something to eat!,” from Weigl's comic opera “Love at Sea.” Here, in an an inventive set of variations, vulgar meets sublime; a witty syncopated coda finishes the work.

Rebecca Clarke's 1921 Trio, not often performed, is a work of great passion and daring, as are her works that focus primarily on small ensembles and songs. The first movement, (moderato ma appassionato) introduced the audience to the composer’s unique sound, influenced by French Impressionism and English folk songs but always in her own distinctive and powerful compositional voice. She was looking back to the extreme romantic gestures of the 19th century and forward into harmonies and rhythmical experimentation of the 20th century. The music is tempestuous and goes from wild dissonant outbursts to serene lovely melodic moments.

The second movement (andante molto semplice) started with single piano notes above which the violin wove a lament. The harmonies were frequently modal and a simple rising whole tone motive evoked dream states and vast emotional spaces. Here the violin often achieved the rich low sound of a viola. The blending of string colors and piano was exquisite. The allegro vigoroso third movement completed this trio with much virtuosic piano writing. There was wild staccato humor, pale watery colors that alternated with bold sound shapes and lovely melodies with echoes of the first movement. There was ferocious dancing sonority dying down to sadness, and then a gust of stormy wind whipping our spirits onward to the end.

After the intermission, the attentive and clearly knowledgeable audience was treated the a beautiful short piece by contemporary American composer Stacey Garrop. “Silver Dagger” is based on the ballad made famous by Joan Baez, and made use of interesting and unusual sound effects from each instrument to make an intriguing and lovely setting.

The final trio was the Brahms Op. 87 in C Major. Brahms wrote this at a relatively happy time in his life and the Lincoln played this beloved work with respect for nuances in dynamics and phrasing and avoidance of bombastic overstatement. The opening, often played with exaggerated force, was rich sounding but also gentle. In loud sections the phrasing was shaped to free the themes from the meter while maintaining their melodic integrity. This performance was powerful and not frantic. The instruments were clear with a rich vibrant sound to enchant us and all musical details were audible. The Andante con moto is a theme (actually two themes) and variations movement with a Hungarian flavor. These variations were played with much articulation and sensitive piano interweaving with the strings. The scherzo is like Mendelssohn in a dark c minor mood with a soaring expansive trio section. This was played at an extremely fast tempo and pianissimo quiet passages, making the performance otherworldly at times. The last movement, Finale, allegro giocoso, has something for everybody. It is full of good boisterous fun and dances. The rondo theme comes back with variations and surprises. Brahms is like a magician conjuring up tricks and joyful magic. The Lincoln played with energy and an always beautiful expressive tone. This is music they have lived with and have explored as an ensemble, a treat for all of us in the audience.

After prolonged and enthusiastic applause, the encore was Piazzolla's tango Autumn in the Port (Buenos Aires), played with great abandon and full of the musicians' personal forays into improvisation on the written score.