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Recital
ELEGANT PIANISM IN WATER MUSIC CHARMS HOUSE RECITAL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 03, 2017
A standard component of house concerts often involve listeners hearing the music but also smelling the lasagna and seeing the champagne in the adjacent kitchen. But it was not the case Sept. 3 at Sandra Shen’s Concerts Grand House Recital performance, as her riveting piano playing enthralled the sm...
Chamber
YOUNG MUSICIANS SHINE AT PIANO SONOMA CONCERT
by Lee Ormasa
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
The third in a series of four concerts by Piano Sonoma artists in residence, part of the Vino and Vibrato Series, was held August 1 in Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center. Entitled “The Masters,” the program included works by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. Piano Sonoma is a summer artist-in...
Chamber
THRILLING PROGRAM CLOSES VOM CHAMBER FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, July 30, 2017
The finale of the two-week Valley of the Moon Music Festival closed July 30 with “The Age of Bravura” concert at the Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. The musical selections held to this year’s Festival theme “Schumann’s World - His Music and the Music He Loved.“ This summer Festival features chamber mus...
Chamber
PERIOD INSTRUMENTAL SOUND AT PENULTIMATE VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 30, 2017
In the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival’s penultimate concert July 30 the perennial issue of period and modern instruments was apparent. But only in the concluding Mendelssohn Trio, as the performances in the two first half works easily avoided instrumental comparisons. Clara Schumann’s t...
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
ADAMS' PHRYGIAN GATES HIGHLIGHTS MORKOSKI FESTIVAL PERFORMANCE
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Attendees at the Molly Morkoski Mendocino Music Festival recital July 22 were in for a treat, both pianistically and if they happened to buy a tasty cookie during intermission. The program included Beethoven’s Op. 27 Moonlight Sonata, Adams’ Phrygian Gates, a surprise add-on of Grieg’s Holberg Suit...
Symphony
SOARING VERDI REQUIEM CLOSES 31ST MENDOCINO FESTIVAL
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
We speak frequently about how there is nothing like the experience of a live performance. Seldom was this truer than at the July 22 closing performance of the two-week Mendocino Music Festival. The Festival Orchestra, conducted by of Allan Pollack, joined with the Festival Chorus in a moving renderi...
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 ...
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.