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Recital
LUSH BACH PERFORMANCE IN DENK'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 13, 2020
Memorable artistic interpretations of musical masterpieces are often at extremes, and with the Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (WTC - Book I) that Jeremy Denk played in Weill Hall Feb. 13, the pianist was only sporadically at unique or ebullient musical ends. But his playing wasn’t exactly at opposite...
Symphony
BROWNE, PAREMSKI HEAD STELLAR CAST AT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 09, 2020
The Sunday, Feb. 9, performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony offered a healthy dose of 21st century music firmly bound to the 19th. Matt Browne’s first symphony, “The Course of Empire”—based on a series of five paintings by Thomas Cole, who founded the Hudson River School of American painting in the ...
Symphony
FRENCH ORCHESTRAL MUSIC A FIRST FOR THE SO CO PHILHARMONIC
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 02, 2020
Over many years the Sonoma County Philharmonic has played little French music, but perhaps this oversight was corrected Feb. 2 in a splendid all-Gallic program Feb. 1 and 2 in the Jackson Theater. Classical Sonoma reviewed the Sunday afternoon concert. In his eighth conducting season with the So C...
Symphony
POLISH MUSICAL WORLDS GLOW BRIGHT IN NFM WROCLAW WEILL PERFORMANCE
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, February 01, 2020
The NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic, with conductor Giancarlo Guerrero, gave a concert of enormous energy and emotional impact on Feb.1 to a small audience in Weill Hall. This orchestra has been a major cultural force in Poland since 1949, playing under many renowned conductors and has been committed to pr...
Opera
EXTRAVAGANT ARIAS IN NEXT GENERATION TENORS GALA VALLEJO CONCERT
by Mark Kratz
Saturday, February 01, 2020
“Beautiful, strange, and unnatural…” said orchestra conductor Thomas Conlin when speaking of the tenor voice. One of the coveted voice types of the opera world, the tenor voice is known for it’s piercing tones and soaring, unnatural high notes. The iconic image of the Pagliacci clown (in the famed...
STRING QUINTETS, RARE AND FAMILIAR, IN SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, January 26, 2020
One hundred attendees in Schroeder Hall were treated Jan. 26 to a pair of stirring two-cello string quintets: Schubert’s much beloved masterpiece Quintet in C (D. 956), and Catoire’s Quintet in C minor (Op. 16), the latter mostly a forgotten work written in 1909. The performers were violinist Victo...
Chamber
MOSTLY MOZART WITH A LITTLE BEETHOVEN AND SOR IN NAPA
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 26, 2020
Sharing the stage with a local diva is a tough task for even seasoned musicians, but Napa College faculty soprano Christina Howell stole the show Jan. 26 when the Napa Valley Music Associates presented an eclectic program of mostly Mozart music. Somehow compositions of Sor and Beethoven joined the m...
Chamber
CHALLENGING WORKS IN GOULD TRIO'S MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 26, 2020
The Gould Piano Trio, founded 28 years ago by violinist Lucy Gould, has been one of the UK’s most prestigious ensembles. Its January 26 performance in Mill Valley Chamber Music Society’s series demonstrated how richly they deserve that reputation. The concert, held at the Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Chu...
Chamber
LOCAL MUSICIANS SHINE IN MTAC BENEFIT CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 25, 2020
After a fire-related postponement of four months, the Sonoma County Chapter of the Music Teachers Association of California Jan. 25 gave their annual scholarship benefit in a charming Sebastopol home. Showcasing local musicians in an intimate setting with two pianos, the first half highlights inclu...
Symphony
MOZART MASTERWORK HIGHLIGHTS MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 25, 2020
Excitement was palpable in the Marin Civic Center Auditorium Jan. 25 as the Marin Symphony in splendid full force took the stage for a richly textured Masterworks II program. Prevented from giving its first Masterworks offering by the wildfire-caused blackouts last October, the orchestra returned wi...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Mill Valley Chamber Music Society / Sunday, January 26, 2020
Gould Piano Trio

Gould Trio with Clarinetist Robert Plane Jan. 26 (A. Wasserman Photo)

CHALLENGING WORKS IN GOULD TRIO'S MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT

by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 26, 2020

The Gould Piano Trio, founded 28 years ago by violinist Lucy Gould, has been one of the UK’s most prestigious ensembles. Its January 26 performance in Mill Valley Chamber Music Society’s series demonstrated how richly they deserve that reputation. The concert, held at the Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church, featured three demanding works, all of which were stunningly performed.

Members of the Trio: Lucy Gould, violin; Benjamin Frith, piano; and cellist Richard Lester, with clarinetist Robert Plane, first spoke from the stage about the challenges inherent in planning a program, quoting Fritz Kreisler’s advice: “First you play what you want the audience to hear, then you play what the audience wants to hear,” then played the rarely-heard Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano in A Minor, Op. 40, by Carl Frühling (1868-1937). Recently rediscovered after lying unplayed for many decades, this lovely work was given a moving reading by Messrs. Plane, Lester, and Frith.

Frühling’s personal story illustrates how political and social upheaval can abort a brilliant career. Although few details are known, Frühling, a Jew from Lemberg, Galicia (now Lvov, Ukraine), lived most of his life in Vienna and was sucked under during that city’s virulent anti-Semitic wave. He survived only to die in obscurity and poverty a year before the deportations began in earnest. His music went underground but this Trio survived, as well as a companion version he wrote for violin, cello and piano and a handful of other works, now attracting attention from musicians.

The Clarinet Trio is suffused with warmth and charm, and was enthusiastically welcomed by the Mill Valley audience. Its initial movement, Mässig schnell (Allegro moderato), began with a lovely clarinet and piano duo that ascended and descended in curlicues of sound. It carried an undercurrent of sadness, yet when all three instruments were playing, was inexpressibly lush. The second movement, Anmütig bewegt (Grazioso), incorporated two dances in three-quarter time, the elegant Viennese waltz and exuberant Ländler country dance. The Gould’s sensitive playing in the Andante third movement evoked a mourning procession, with musical mourners sharing reminiscences, three together, then two; finally, the clarinet poignantly alone. The fourth movement, Allegro Vivace, thrilled with shifting tempos, complex rhythms and a vigorous conclusion. Instrumental balances created clarity for each instrument even in complicated ensemble. This clarinet trio has substantial worth.

Ms. Gould joined her colleagues to perform “Four Fables” by Welsh composer Huw Watkins, a co-commissioned work for violin, cello, piano and clarinet. By way of verbal introduction, Mr. Lester joked that commissioning a work doesn’t necessarily mean it will be enjoyable to play, but this one, he nodded, is. They have performed it a dozen times since it was completed in 2018. The four movements are not based on any known fables or fairy tales (the difference between a fairy tale and fable is slight: fables contain a moral lesson). Rather, the composer has said his inspiration came from Robert Schumann’s Märchenerzählungen (fairy tale narrations), which also refer to no text. The musicians and listeners, therefore, can summon their own stories.

The four parts, played in sequence with pause between, are sonically related to one another. They are mysterious, full of imagination and brightly colored. Their connection to one another is enhanced by similar tempo and pace, and three are marked Lento.

In each, Mr. Frith played with much damper pedal so that each line shimmered into the next, creating an atmosphere of ambiguity and mystery. Ms. Gould’s violin in its purity and delicacy rivaled bird song, and Mr. Frith’s cello lines were dark and burnished. Throughout, Mr. Plane’s clarinet line sang eloquently, and the piece’s harmonic structure was often unusual and always beautiful. Each movement evoked further advancement into a mysterious territory. Low pizzicatos underpinned sparkling jumps in the clarinet and piano parts. In the Allegro second movement there was an instrumental chase that was almost palpable, then a musical slowing, with a dawning realization that one might be lost in deep woods. In movement three the clarinet line mounted thrilling arpeggios over sustained cello lines, and somehow this suggested (getting into the spirit) that the hero of this amorphous tale was being tested for bravery. A repetitive flutter from the piano line could have been a quickened pulse or the flight of a butterfly. Deep in the spell of the fourth movement the piece ended abruptly, without a resolution, as though suggesting that the journey is never over.

After a short intermission the musicians returned to play Dvořák’s Piano Trio No. 3 in F-minor, Op. 65. Dvořák usually worked quickly, but he took his time writing these four movements, and they are complicated, with quick changes in pace and dynamics. Only the third movement has a single tempo indication, (Poco adagio), while the others are rife with rapid changes in pace. Such quick phrases and tempos challenge an ensemble, but the Gould players handled them with élan, although occasionally the cello’s sound was covered by the piano. The entire work is a wealth of mercury-swift alterations of rhythms, moods and feelings, with mournful singing of the cello part in the third movement and the glorious melodies from Ms. Gould’s violin all wonderfully matched by Mr. Frith’s glimmering pianistic touch. Each musician played with intense focus and virtuoso technique to create a magical sonic experience.

It was a rousing performance, nuanced and also bold. As the final notes faded, the audience stood to applaud with loud appreciation.