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Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s Sonoma Overt...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
Chamber
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, perfor...
Symphony
AMERICAN CLASSICS SPARKLE UNDER KAHANE’S BATON
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Jeffrey Kahane, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s former conductor, returned to the Weill Hall podium on Saturday night, and the results were expectedly wonderful. The concert of American classics was by turns playful (Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”), emotional (Barber’s violin concerto) and triumphant (...
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 REVIEW
Mill Valley Chamber Music Society / Sunday, November 04, 2018
ATOS Piano Trio. Annette von Hehn, violin; Stefan Heinemyer, cello; Thomas Hoppe, piano

ATOS Piano Trio Nov. 4 in Mill Valley (A. Wasserman photo)

ATOS TRIO IN MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT

by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 04, 2018

When the ATOS Piano Trio planned their all-Russian touring program at their Berlin home base, it had a strong elegiac, even tragic theme that surely resonated with their Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience Nov. 4 in Mill Valley.

Comprised of Annette von Hehn, violin; Thomas Hoppe, piano; and cellist Stefan Heinemeyer, the Trio opened with Rachmaninoff’s Trio élégiaque in G minor, No. 1. Rachmaninoff wrote the piece during his graduation year at Moscow Conservatory but didn’t assign it an opus number, and only performed it once, at his graduation recital. It wasn’t published until 1947, four years after his death, yet it’s an affecting work, alternatively sorrowful and passionate, with lovely themes. In its ten-minute duration it managed to suggest many stages of grief.

As the sole movement lento lugubre begins, a luminous yet agitated tremolo in the strings is joined by the piano stating a simple and sad melody which will be passed back and forth many times. It rises to passionate anguish in a keening duet of the violin and cello. Mr. Heinemeyer’s cello sound was extraordinarily resonant. Ms. von Hehn’s honey-colored violin sound blended sweetness and delicacy, and Mr. Hoppe’s pianism was bell-like, rapid fire and thunderous in sequence. In the funeral march that takes the work to its quiet conclusion, the pianist played broken chords that imitated a drumbeat, while the violin and cello wove a spell incorporating the theme, now separate, now in unison. Finally a quiet resignation was reached. When Rachmaninoff wrote this piece he may have been inspired by Tchaikovsky’s own piano trio lamenting the death of their mutual friend, Nikolai Rubenstein. Rachmaninoff wrote a second Trio Elégiaque after Tchaikovsky’s death in 1893.

Arensky’s glorious first Piano Trio in D minor, Op. 32, followed, and was composed in memory of cellist Karl Davidov. In the allegro moderato movement the violin states a theme aching with yearning, and is answered by the cello and piano, and an eloquent conversation ensues that continues through the movement and ends in a restatement of the theme. Mr. Heinemeyer’s phrasing was exemplary and the voice of his cello filled the hall. At times I wished Ms. von Hehn would take a stronger lead, but she often moderated her tone to fit with the others.

The second movement, scherzo: allegro molto, is effervescent as sparkling cider. The piano plays an oompah rhythm, suggestive of a carnival, then the strings play a stuttering pizzicato, and the whole is dance-like. There was a lovely gaiety to the movement. In the third movement (elegia: adagio) the musicians created a mood of radiant stillness. The audience in the Mt. Tamalpais United Methodist Church was very quiet as the strings shimmered and Mr. Hoppe’s phrasing stated the themes. The violin and cello blended in a shared expression of sorrow and a brief funeral march ended the movement. The fourth movement, finale: allegro non troppo, brought the work to a stirring conclusion with purpose and vigor.

Three Folk Dances by Alexander Veprik (1899-1958) followed the intermission. Veprik, a professor and then Dean at the Moscow Conservatory, was an important member of the Society for Jewish Music in the 1920s, and his Jewish-influenced music enjoyed popularity inside and outside of Russia from the 1920s. He wrote his Folk Dances, Op. 13b for both piano and piano trio.

In the first allegro moderato movement Ms. von Hehm had a bold, strong tone, while in the second dance, lento, an elegiac lament, her tone was light and golden. Mr. Heinemeyer’s rich, dark tone complemented the violinist’s delicate sound. The third dance, a minor key allegro, is the most oriental of the three, with unexpected dissonance in the final bars.

The ATOS then gave a reading of great emotion and depth to Shostakovich’s Piano Trio in E minor, Op. 67. Written in 1944, it is dedicated to the memory of his closest friend, musicologist Ivan Sollertinsky. As explained in the excellent program notes, Shostakovich was deeply influenced by Jewish music and knew firsthand the sufferings of his Jewish friends under the Soviet dictator Stalin. The music thrums with intimations of terror, displacement and death. The first andante movement opens with eerie harmonics in the strings, joined by the lone voice of the piano. The pulse of the music quickens, as if in a chase, as inexorable forces seem to descend.

The scherzosecond movement roils like a hive of angry wasps before breaking into a wild dance, with stunning rapid fire playing by all. The third movement, largowas in turns dissonant, insistent, and mournful, with the cello and violin in close harmony. Movement four,allegretto-adagio, was played by the ATOS viscerally, describing in notes a time so bleak and turbulent that I wondered if others in the Church were feeling as I did, or if people were restive in the gloom.

The answer came when after the last notes of the funeral march that ends the composition faded. The audience sat silently until at last the musicians lowered their bows, and they rose as one to give a prolonged standing ovation.