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Choral and Vocal
NOBLE BRAHMS REQUIEM PERFORMANCE CLOSES SONOMA BACH'S SEASON
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, June 01, 2019
Sonoma Bach, conducted by Robert Worth, presented a truly grand finale to their 2018-19 "Light Out of Darkness" season in two sold out Schroeder Hall performances June 1 and 2. The program "A Human Requiem" was received rapturously with a well-deserved standing ovation for the main work, Brahms' ...
Chamber
THREE SONG CYCLES HIGHLIGHT VIBRANT SLV RECITAL
by Pamela Hicks-Gailey
Wednesday, May 08, 2019
An ambitious recital of vocal and piano music was presented May 8 at Santa Rosa’s Spring Lake Village by mezzo-soprano Kindra Scharich and pianist Jeffrey LaDeur. The duo engaged the enthusiastic audience with scholarly friendliness and artistry in performances of Beethoven's short cycle of six song...
Symphony
ALEXANDER TORADZE DELIVERS A LESSON IN SERENITY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 05, 2019
An entire concerto movement consisting of serene piano melodies over a soothing backdrop is probably not the first thing that springs to mind when seeing Shostakovich’s name on an orchestra program, but that’s exactly what pianist Alexander Toradze delivered--twice--at Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony c...
Symphony
MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON CLOSES WITH AUTUMNAL ELGAR AND THEATRICAL BEETHOVEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, April 28, 2019
Mozart’s enchanting Overture to his opera The Magic Flute, a miniature tapestry of gems from the 1791 work, opened the Marin Symphony’s final concert of the 2018-2019 season. Under conductor Alasdair Neale, the playing of the sprightly seven-minute piece by a reduced-size classical ensemble sparkled...
Recital
SHAHAM-EGUCHI DUO'S EXCITING MUSICAL GENEROSITY IN WEILL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, April 26, 2019
Violinist Gil Shaham may be the most modest virtuoso on the concert stage today, and it is the great music he most wishes to put forward, never himself. Generosity, a quality he is known for, was abundantly clear in Weill Hall April 26 when he performed, with pianist Akira Eguchi, a generous program...
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 REVIEW
SRJC Chamber Concerts / Friday, February 20, 2009
Trio con Brio Copenhagen

Trio Con Brio

SOMETHING AWESOME FROM THE STATE OF DENMARK

by David Parsons
Friday, February 20, 2009

The Trio con Brio Copenhagen returned to the SRJC Chamber Concerts Series Feb. 20 in a program devoted to two massive piano trios, prefaced with an anniversary cello/piano duo.

Although Mendelssohn’s Song without Words, Opus 109, was chosen to open the program in honor of the composer’s 200th anniversary this year, this tender love poem is worth including anytime. Korean cellist Soo-Kyung Hong, with her Danish husband pianist Jens Elvekjaer, made an eloquent statement in the tranquil first and last sections of the piece, creating a mood shaken only by the more emotional middle section. The long silent pause just before the return of the theme in the third section was breathtaking in its poignant intensity. Mendelssohn composed all too little music for solo cello, and it is a joy to hear what there is, especially in the medium of the nearly “vocal” singing of the cello. The Trio con Brio included this piece in their Mendelssohn bicentennial program at the Library of Congress just two days before this concert.

For the remainder of the ambitious program, the duo became a trio as Ms. Hong’s sister, violinist Soo-Jin Hong, joined the group for Beethoven’s famous “Archduke” Trio, Op. 97. The composer’s deafness by that time was far enough advanced that he could not really play accurately in ensemble, with predictably unsatisfactory results. Nonetheless, a room in the historic Hotel zum Römischer Kaiser in Vienna (formerly a small palace) had been hired, and two of Beethoven’s friends joined him to play. The lengthy work was dedicated to Archduke Rudolph, youngest son of Emperor Leopold II and brother of the then-current Emperor Franz. Beethoven dedicated the G Major and E-Flat Major Piano Concertos to Rudolph, as well as three piano sonatas, a violin sonata, the Missa Solemnis and the Grosse Fuge.

Although Beethoven typically grows loud and rough in the development sections of movements, he often starts first movements quietly, and marked this score dolce. This opening gives an elevated air to the movement. Elvekjaer had a delicate touch and used the shift pedal judiciously to underscore the ensemble. One of the moments when the piano line was balanced and sufficiently pianissimo to accommodate the softness of the strings occurred during the first movement, where Beethoven may have been trying to shock convention with his extended use of pizzicato in the strings. The typical Classical four-movement structure, where a slow movement usually comes second and a lighter minuet or scherzo third, is changed in the B-Flat Trio. A jocular Scherzo follows the opening Allegro, although its liveliness yields to some mysterious creepy chromatic contrapuntal imitation prior to the ending.

The slow movement, a set of five variations on a serene, hymn-like melody, is the work’s spiritual centerpiece. The string players’ most eloquent touch here was on the last notes of the expressive coda, when they played without vibrato, reinforcing the calm with stunning effect. The Rondo finale bursts forth with typical Beethovenian humor.

All in all, the Archduke Trio marks the summit of Beethoven’s production for that medium, and it is among his greatest chamber-music masterpieces, here superbly played and warmly applauded. To hear it followed with the rarely-performed Dvořák Piano Trio in F Minor, possibly the greatest piano trio from the second half of the 19th century, made this an extraordinarily rich program of music.

What struck me throughout the Dvořák was the perfect structure of the movements, the gorgeous melodies pouring forth one after the other, clearly and logically developed and leading to convincing conclusions. The secondary theme of the first movement is my favorite, reminding me of a homecoming after a long time away. The ensemble handled the rhythmic ambiguities of the Scherzo second movement adroitly. The intimate interactions of the players, listening to and watching each other for timing and balance, were a demonstration of virtuoso chamber music playing. The tension built up in the minor-keyed last movement, finally resolving to the major, gave a thrillingly satisfying sense of achievement and relief. The last movement is marked con brio, and the Trio con Brio more than lived up to the instruction and their own ensemble’s name.

The rapt audience was rewarded with an encore: Haydn’s familiar Gypsy Rondo. Here there were lively reminiscences of the gypsy folk music Haydn heard during his years of working at the Esterhazy estate and in Hungary.