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JOYFUL ACCOLADES FOR BROWNS IN SRS VIDEO GALA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
As with many area musical groups the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled several virtual concerts, beginning Oct. 11 in Weill Hall. In a program surprise, a pre-season Gala honoring Norma and Corrick Brown came Sept. 12 on YouTube, and proved to be an attractive if not especially riveting 70 minutes ...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
BEETHOVEN'S VALENTINE'S DAY GIFT IN RAC SEBASTOPOL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, February 14, 2020
Continuing a season of Redwood Arts Council successes, the Kouzov Duo performed an eclectic Valentine’s Day concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church before an audience of 125. Beethoven’s charming Op. 66 Variations on Mozart’s “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from the opera the Magic Flute was a bouncy ...
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...
BROWNE, PAREMSKI HEAD STELLAR CAST AT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 9, 2020
The 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 1820s—emp...
FRENCH ORCHESTRAL MUSIC A FIRST FOR THE SO CO PHILHARMONIC
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 2, 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...
POLISH MUSICAL WORLDS GLOW BRIGHT IN NFM WROCLAW WEILL PERFORMANCE
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, February 1, 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...
CHAMBER REVIEW

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.