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Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
Chamber
UNEXPECTED ARENSKY AND MENDELSSOHN BY THE NAVARRO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
The 100 people entering Schroeder Hall Feb. 17 for a Trio Navarro concert were handed a program that appeared to feature two popular piano trios, Mendelssohn and Arensky. But continuing the Navarro’s tradition of repertoire exploration, the pieces were not the usual first Mendelssohn and first Aren...
Recital
GLOVER'S ECLECTIC PROGRAMMING HIGHLIGHT'S CINNABAR RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
Daniel Glover is arguably the busiest virtuoso pianist in the San Francisco Bay area, but rarely is heard in North Bay concerts. So 90 local pianophiles were anxious to hear him Feb. 17 in Petaluma’s charming small Cinnabar Theater, and they were rewarded with an eclectic program of sometimes unfam...
Symphony
MENDELSSOHN'S SCOTTISH SAVES THE EVENING IN SRS WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Monday, February 11, 2019
The audience entering Weill Hall for Santa Rosa Symphony concerts Feb. 9-11 were presented with a program that on first glance appeared a curious patchwork – a great symphony mixed with a seldom heard concerto and two disparate overtures, and a guest conductor unknown locally. Monday night’s concer...
Recital
INTRIGUING BELL-HAYWOOD RECITAL BEFORE FULL HOUSE IN WEILL HALL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, February 08, 2019
A big portion of the capacity audience in Weill Hall February 8th came to hear violinist Joshua Bell’s virtuosity, and were treated as well to splendid playing from Sam Haywood, Mr. Bell’s regular pianist since 2010. The duo performed three engaging sonatas, highlighted by Mr. Bell’s sterling techn...
Symphony
TRIPLE PLAY UKIAH SYMPHONY CONCERT AND TCHAIKOVSKY SERENADE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Over the years the Ukiah Symphony’s concerts have been in the Classical Sonoma Calendar sections, but rarely has this Orchestra, now in its 39th season, had a full winter season concert review. The provocative Jan. 27 program in Mendocino College’s Center Theater seemed a good reason to reacquaint ...
Symphony
JACKSON THEATER WELCOMES A NEW RESIDENT ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Moving to a permanent new performance venue can be a perilous undertaking for an orchestra, with different acoustics, the loyal audience finding the new spot and infrastructure challenges of lighting and lobby and backstage operations. In their first concert Jan. 26 in Windsor’s Jackson Theater the...
Symphony
ECLECTIC PASSIONATE PROGRAMMING AT MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 26, 2019
The Marin Symphony’s second Masterworks concert of the 2018-19 season featured works by John Adams, Sibelius and Brahms, a masterful assembly. In a spoken introduction before the program’s first half, conductor Alasdair Neale primed the audience for the “terra incognita” of Adams’ The Chairman Dance...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Church of the Incarnation / Friday, October 12, 2018
David Rothe organ; Ayako Nakamura, trumpet and flugelhorn; Carol Menke, soprano; Laura McLellan, cello

Trumpeter Ayako Nakamura

HEROIC TRUMPET AND ORGAN MUSIC AT INCARNATION

by Jerry Dibble
Friday, October 12, 2018

The strong connections between Santa Rosa’s musical community and California State University Chico were on display Oct. 12 as David Rothe, Professor Emeritus in the Chico Music Department, and Ayako Nakamura, trumpet with the North State Symphony, presented a concert titled “Heroic Music for Trumpet and Organ” at Santa Rosa’s Church of the Incarnation. Joining them for the finale, Handel’s “Let the Bright Seraphim,” were soprano Carol Menke, Incarnation Music Director, herself a graduate of the Chico State Music Department, and cellist Laura McLellan, who took on the work of an entire string section.

A concert mostly of music for trumpet and organ, no matter how heroic, can weary the ears, and the program was carefully arranged to avoid that. In tackling Telemann’s “Heroic Marches,” for example, the program separated six selections into two offerings, one Marches 4, 5 and 6 (“Tranquility,” “Armament” and “Love”) midway through the first half of the concert; and the other, Marches 1, 2, and 12 (“Majesty,” “Grace” and “Joy”) near the end of the second. In between there were excursions into solo pieces for organ (Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in C Minor and Buxtehude’s Praeludium in G Minor), and Arutiunian’s Elegy from 2000, played on flugelhorn.

In a similar spirit, the concert opened with Martini’s Sonata in D Major, immediately followed by Hovhaness’ equally familiar but more contemporary and often darkly haunting Prayer of Saint Gregory, composed in 1946.

The performers, especially Prof. Rothe, offered helpful and insightful comments on the composers, the structure of the music and its history, including the differences between French and German instrumental reeds and, more tellingly, the contrast between the solo organ selection from Buxtehude’s later years and the far more youthful and less troubled offering from his admirer and occasional student, Bach.

Throughout the interaction between the trumpeter and organist was smooth and professional, not surprising since the duo has presented the same concert, with only minor variations, several times in and around Chico since the beginning of the summer. As with most live performances, some runs on the trumpet were less than fully realized and got partially lost in the large space of the church. But I will always trade the risks of a live performance for a digitally perfect recording of the same pieces, especially when the performance takes place in a lovely and sonically rewarding venue like the Incarnation, with its arching old-growth redwood rafters and delicately carved wood fixtures.

One or two quibbles: first, I would have preferred to hear the final notes of the trumpet passages in the baroque pieces held out full value, with more vibrato. As it was, they were too often played staccato or marcato, with a corresponding loss of resonance, beauty and passion. That flaw vanished during the Handel, when the call and responses passages with Ms. Menke’s vocal lines provided Ms. Nakamura a more reliable model to follow.

The performance could have benefited by a bit more passion in the trumpet and organ pieces overall. Baroque music is the work of the Enlightenment, the period that brought us Kantian logic, essayistic poems in heroic couplets, and the rise of the middle class. But for that very reason this music needs more fire and fervor in the interpretation than related music, not less. At times the playing seemed workmanlike and technically precise but lacking in the ecclesiastical impulse that provided the occasion for the pieces’ composition.

Finally, there was a need of amplification for the voice and cello in the final work. Both tended to be overpowered by the organ and trumpet. Handel’s Let the Bright Seraphim is a wonderful piece of music, particularly as a finale for the concert, but much of its power depends on the equal aural presence of all the parts.