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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 ...
Symphony
CONDUCTOR PLAYOFFS BEGIN IN SANTA ROSA
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 08, 2017
The Santa Rosa Symphony is calling 2017-18 “a choice season” because the next few months offer the audience and the symphony’s board of directors a chance to choose a new conductor from a pool of five candidates. Each candidate will lead a three-concert weekend set this fall and winter, with a final...
Recital
PIANISTIC COMMAND IN SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, October 08, 2017
Nikolay Khozyainov’s Oct. 8 debut at the Green Music Center’s Schroeder Hall was one of those rare moments in a young artist’s career when a performance approaches perfection. From the opening notes of Beethoven’s A-Flat Major Sonata (Op. 110) through a delightful recital ending transcription, 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.