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Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
BEETHOVEN'S VALENTINE'S DAY GIFT IN RAC SEBASTOPOL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, February 14, 2020
Continuing a season of Redwood Arts Council successes, the Kouzov Duo performed an eclectic Valentine’s Day concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church before an audience of 125. Beethoven’s charming Op. 66 Variations on Mozart’s “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from the opera the Magic Flute was a bouncy ...
LUSH BACH PERFORMANCE IN DENK'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 13, 2020
Memorable artistic interpretations of musical masterpieces are often at extremes, and with the Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (WTC - Book I) that Jeremy Denk played in Weill Hall Feb. 13, the pianist was only sporadically at unique or ebullient musical ends. But his playing wasn’t exactly at opposite...
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.