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Chamber
ECLECTIC REPERTOIRE IN FETCHING VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 22, 2017
One of the purposes of summer music festivals is to present unfamiliar music in an attractive and often small audience setting. The Valley of the Moon Music Festival delightfully met these requirements July 22 and 23 with two concerts in the small hall at Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. Classical Sono...
Recital
ORGAN REGISTRATION MASTERY HEARD IN WALHAIN'S RECITAL
by Robert Young
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
A group of 65 lucky attendees July 18 had the pleasure of hearing Etienne Walhain’s recital at the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa. Mr. Walhain is organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Tournai, Belgium, and played to a varied program Bach, Franck, and Reger. He used the tonal resource...
Opera
DONIZETTI'S DON PASQUALE HAS LYRICAL CHARM IN MENDOCINO FESTIVAL PRODUCTION
by Elly Lichenstein
Friday, July 14, 2017
Mendocino Music Festival's production of Donizetti's beloved opera buffa Don Pasquale - a one-night affair July 15 that was presented in an enormous tent on a greensward overlooking the Pacific Ocean - delighted an audience of more than 600 while doing some real justice to this frothy gem of commedi...
Recital
NOVACEK'S 2ND HALF TRIFECTA SCORES AT MENDO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 13, 2017
Modern classical piano recitals are in two parts, with longer and perhaps more profound music proceeding perhaps shorter and usually stimulating lighter fare. In John Novacek’s July 13 Mendocino Music Festival recital the best playing came unexpectedly in the eight abbreviated works comprising the ...
Recital
STYLUS AND PLAYING FANTASTICUS IN YOUNG'S ORGAN RECITAL
by Paul Blanchard
Sunday, June 25, 2017
Organist Robert Young gave a wonderful tour through the stylus fantasticus (fantastic style) organ literature June 25 playing a recital on the Casavant organ at Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa. Mr. Young recently became the organist at the Church and previously served for 20 years as Music D...
Chamber
KODALY DUO TRUMPS POPULAR MENDELSSOHN TRIO AT SLV CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 21, 2017
It’s not really a secret, but Sonoma County’s best chamber music series is one without much notoriety or publicity. The concerts at Santa Rosa’s Spring Lake Village programs are only for residents and a few invited guests. Impresario Robert Hayden years ago honed his producer skills as founder of ...
Recital
DEMANDING VIOLIN SONATAS CONQUERED BY BEILMAN-WEISS DUO IN SCHROEDER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, May 14, 2017
Violinist Benjamin Beilman’s ravishing Mozart performance at last summer’s Weill Hall ChamberFest finale lured an enthusiastic crowd to Schroeder Hall May 14 to hear if his secure virtuosity was up to a program of demanding sonatas. He did not disappoint. With the powerful pianist Orion Weiss in t...
Symphony
SOVIETS INVADE WEILL HALL, TAKE NO PRISONERS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 07, 2017
Bruno Ferrandis may be French, but he excels in Soviet repertoire. His Slavonic expertise was more than amply demonstrated at the Santa Rosa Symphony’s May 7 concert, where the program began joyfully with Khachaturian’s ballet suite from “Masquerade,” surged forward with Prokofiev’s second violin co...
Recital
MASTERFUL PIANISM IN GOODE'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, May 05, 2017
Pianist Richard Goode programmed an evening of treasures May 5 from four great composers, and is an artist of intimacy and intelligence, power and passion, able to go deep and to soar. Hearing Mr. Goode play this literature was a reminder of how music does indeed bridge worlds and time. Bach’s E m...
Recital
ELEGANT ORGAN SALUTE TO THE REFORMATION
by Paul Blanchard
Sunday, April 30, 2017
Organist Jonathan Dimmock presented an April 30 recital in homage to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, playing Schroeder Hall’s wonderful Brombaugh instrument. Mr. Dimmock is the organist for the San Francisco Symphony, principal organist for the Palace of the Legion of Honor and teaches at...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Mastercard Performance Series / Sunday, February 19, 2017
Phillip Setzer, violin; David Finckel, cello; Wu Han, piano

(l to r) P. Setzer, Wu Han and D. Finckel Acknowledge Applause Feb. 19 in Weill

THREE BEETHOVEN TRIOS BEGUILE AUDIENCE IN FEB. 19 WEILL CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 19, 2017

Chamber music concerts featuring one composer can be tricky, but the Han/Setzer/Finckel trio made a Feb. 19 Weill Hall audience of 500 hear and to a degree see the boundless creativity of Beethoven.

The G Major Trio, Op. 1, No. 2, opened the afternoon’s Beethoven odyssey and one wonders why it is the least played of the early trios. Out of the shadows of Haydn’s trios, the G Major sparkled under joyous playing and brisk tempos, especially appropriate to the music.

At the allegro vivace’s conclusion cellist David Finckel’s IPhone sounded, and as he sheepishly stopped the ringing violinist Philip Setzer quipped to the audience “no one should call David during this performance.” Shades of famous PDQ Bach routines.

In this trio and throughout the concert Wu Han’s pianism in fast legato runs was blurred and scales indistinct, but it’s well known that a less-than-full Weill Hall is acoustically unfriendly to piano legato in Romantic music. In the largo the lyrical main theme was played in a beguiling way with a perfectly-graded bantamweight ending. The jocular scherzo was followed by a finale played at fast tempo, but the music is always ripe for such an interpretation. Violinist Phillip Setzer’s light spiccato bow was up to the task and Ms. Wu’s rollicking piano part never covered her colleagues.

Lovely ensemble playing was heard in the E-Flat Major (Op. 70, No. 2) Trio, especially in the subtle humor of the slow waltz of the allegretto with offbeat accents. Classical era compositional humor is usually associated with Haydn, but it’s also indigenous to Beethoven. The Trio underscored Schubert’s influence in the next section, showcasing an elegant song-like theme. Mr. Setzer played the several variations with tiny old-fashioned portamentos and the effect was fresh and persuasive.

In the dramatic finale Mr. Finckel took command with varied cello colors and voicing, and instrumental balances were exemplary. In this movement Beethoven seems to not want the music to end, and writes several false cadences. He can’t let it go, and so it was with the audience’s extended applause.

Following intermission Beethoven’s greatest Trio, the B-Flat Major (“Archduke”) completed the afternoon’s music. This noble work from 1811 received a performance that was surprisingly underplayed, even modest. This is not say the reading was routine, but simply that it was fashioned carefully without being distinctive or memorable. No extravagant ritards or unique phrase sculpting as can be heard in recordings (Cortot, Thibaud and Casals) or more recently in live performances of Yuja Wang with friends.

Perhaps the program’s finest playing was heard in the touching sentiment of the andante cantabile where the bitter-sweet D Major Variations ended with a simple restatement of the theme, as the composer did similarly in the Op. 109 and Op. 111 piano sonatas. The musicians captured the sorrowful hesitations and the delicate modulation that lends to this movement a mournful gravity. Impeccable artistry.

The transition to the finale, with its banal theme that wonderfully expands to contrasts and complexity, was jarring but effective. Mr. Setzer, a violinist that shuns a soloist role in favor of a handsome integrated sound, led the playing in the rondo that alternated between peasant textures and pungent repeated refrains. Ms. Wu’s playing also rotated between half-pedal clarity (when the tempos slowed) and a pesky covering blur to the cello and violin lines. But no matter, the ending was joyous and brilliant.

There was no encore.