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Recital
TRANSCRIPTIONS ABOUND IN GALBRAITH'S GUITAR RECITAL
by Gary Digman
Saturday, September 14, 2019
Master guitarist Paul Galbraith’s artistry was much in evidence Sept. 14 in his Sebastopol Community Church recital. Attendees in the Redwood Arts Council events were initially bothered by the afternoon’s heat in the church, but it was of small importance when the Cambridge, England-based artist be...
Recital
ECLECTIC DRAMATIC PROGRAMING IN SPRING LAKE VILLAGE RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, September 11, 2019
Marin-based pianist Laura Magnani combined piquant remarks to an audience of 100 Sept. 11 with dramatic music making in a recital at Spring Lake Village’s Montgomery Center. Ms. Magnani’s eclectic programming in past SLV recitals continued, beginning with three sonatas by her Italian compatriot Sca...
Chamber
PERFORMER AS PROMOTER: CLARA SCHUMANN AND MUSICAL SALONS CLOSE VOM FESTIVAL
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Sunday, July 28, 2019
The July 28 closing performance of the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival could have been subtitled "Friends", as it was devoted to works by both Clara and Robert Schumann, and those of their friends and protégés Brahms and virtuoso violinist Joseph Joachim, with whom Clara toured extensively...
Chamber
ROMANTIC CHAMBER WORKS HIGHLIGHT VOM FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, July 27, 2019
Now in its 5th season the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival presented July 27 a concert titled “My Brilliant Sister,” featuring Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel’s compositions for combinations of voice, fortepiano and strings. Fanny and her brother Felix were close, and Felix occasionally published ...
Symphony
ROMANTIC DREAMS AT THE MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kayleen Asbo
Wednesday, July 24, 2019
Romanticism, contrary to many popular perceptions, wasn’t simply about diving into the habitat of the heart. Romanticism began as a literary movement that elevated the power of nature as a transcendent force and sought with keen nostalgia to rediscover the wisdom of the past. The Romantics in both l...
Chamber
CHAUSSON CONCERTO SHINES IN A VISIONARY'S SALON
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, July 21, 2019
Ernest Chausson’s four-movement Concerto in D Major for Violin, Piano, and String Quartet (1891) is neither concerto nor sonata nor symphony, but it somehow manages to be all three, especially when played with fire and conviction by an accomplished soloist. Those incendiary and emotional elements w...
Chamber
EUROPEAN SALON MUSIC CAPTIVATES AT VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Sunday, July 21, 2019
Two stunning programs of 19th and 20th century chamber music were presented on July 21 and 28 as part of the Valley of the Moon Music Festival at the Hanna Center in Sonoma. Festival founders and directors pianist Eric Zivian and cellist Tanya Tompkins were both on hand to contribute brilliantly at ...
Chamber
ECLECTIC INSTRUMENTAL COMBINATIONS IN VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, July 20, 2019
A Lovely summer afternoon in Sonoma Valley, an excellent small concert hall, enthusiastic audience, exciting musicians and creative programming with interesting story lines. All these were combined July 20 at a Valley of the Moon Festival concert titled “An Italian in Paris.” This is the fifth seaso...
Opera
'ELIXIR' A WELCOME TONIC IN SPRIGHTLY ANNUAL MMF OPERA
by Terry McNeill
Friday, July 19, 2019
In most of the Mendocino Music Festival’s 33 seasons a single evening is given over to a staged opera, with bare bones sets, lighting, costumes, minimal cast and short length. No Wagner or Verdi here, no multiple acts and complicated production demands. Light and frothy are the usual, and so it wa...
Recital
PUNGENT WALTZES AND VIRTUOSITY IN LADEUR'S SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, July 17, 2019
San Francisco based pianist Jeffrey LaDeur has become one of the most sought-after North Bay virtuosi, and cemented that reputation July 17 in a short but eclectic recital in Santa Rosa’s Spring Lake Village Chamber Music Series. Before 140 in the Village’s auditorium Mr. LaDeur began with Schubert...
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.