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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 ...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Music at Oakmont / Thursday, October 20, 2016
Trio Valtorna. Ida Kavafian, violin; David Jolley, horn; Gilles Vonsattel, piano

Violinist Ida Kavafian

TRIO VALTORNA'S JAUNTY EXPLORATIONS AT OAKMONT CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 20, 2016

New York’s Trio Valtorna came to Music at Oakmont’s Berger Auditorium stage Oct. 20 with three disparate works, and in two of them instrumental sonic continuity was not a main goal.

But it was in the second half’s seminal piece, Brahms’ E-Flat Major Trio (Op. 40) for horn, violin and piano, that brought the audience of 150 and violinist Ida Kavafian, hornist David Jolley and pianist Gilles Yonsattel most happily together. The opening Andante was played with special emphasis on the varied return (three times) to the luscious main theme, and the intricate balancing of the five harmonic keys. It was never a strongly dramatic reading but more svelte and lyrical, even in the second climax. The lively Scherzo was fiery and reminded me of the fast sections of the composer’s C Minor Piano Quartet. Controlled velocity.

Brahms’ haunting Adagio was given a slow and moving interpretation, bass heavy at times, and Ms. Kavafian’s exposed accuracy of pitch was perfection. Mr. Jolley came to the fore in the Allegro finale with judicious quick note runs and subtle short crescendos and decrescendos. One the whole the performance favored ensemble and lyricism over sustained drama.

Ending the first half was a performance of Ravel’s G Major Violin Sonata, played by Ms. Kavafian from score with warm pianism from Mr. Vonsattel. But it’s not a “warm” piece, and the composition from 1927 has lots of stylistic contradictions. Here Ms. Kavafian was in no hurry to get anywhere and used in the opening Allegretto moderate vibrato and a chaste, sunny bottom sound. Mr. Vonsattel’s touch was everywhere adroit. The ending played off seconds with a long held note in the violin with the piano softly following. Beguiling and convincing.

The bluesy Moderato was played in a light march of broken rhythms with jaunty violin pizzicatos and various jazzy inflections and offbeat accents. It’s difficult to bring out the careless “swing” of Ravel’s polytonalities but both musicians seemed to have an intuitive connection with the jazz idiom.

Fine duo playing continued into the Perpetuum Mobile finale with Mr. Vonstattel playing powerfully sharp sound “jabs” and the exploration of a little music from the preceding movements. It was athletic playing at a quick pace that highlighted Ravel’s free rein of cascading ideas and juxtaposition of instrumental texture.

John Harbison’s 1985 Twilight Music for Horn, Violin and Piano opened the program following Mr. Jolley’s remarks regarding the piece, and an odd reference to Brahms’ ensemble with the same instruments. Ms. Kavafian’s violin line was often at the top of its register, and the piece abounds in frantic horn and piano phrases and fragmentary, insistent and jumpy rhythms. The playing was always capable but the lasting effect of the music on the Berger audience was in doubt, and the Harrison work past without much notice.

For me the most memorable part of “Twilight” was near the end when the Valtorna slowed the pace in a major key with unison violin and horn lines, creating a clean and mellow sound absent from most of the 18-minute composition.