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Choral and Vocal
A SEASONAL MESSIAH WITH BALANCE AND HEFT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 10, 2017
The mid-December concert season seems for jaded reviewers to invariably include a Messiah performance, and perhaps a Messiah in a long string of similar and mundane performances. This was decidedly not the case when San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque mounted Handel’s eminent three-part 1742 Orato...
Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony concert featured two elegant and refined guests: music director candidate Andrew Grams and pianist Stewart Goodyear. Both displayed dazzling technique and consummate artistry, but Goodyear was the more consistent of the two. Some of Grams’ inconsistency may have st...
Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
Chamber
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the ...
CHAMBER REVIEW

The Sequoia Trio

AND SEQUOIA MAKES THREE

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, March 05, 2009

Having a third piano trio resident in the North Bay along with the Navarro and Tilden trios is a joyous prospect, as each will provide varied aural perspectives on the rich trio literature. The newest group, the Sequoia, played on March 5 in the cozy Great Room of Santa Rosa’s Spring Lake Village before 75 attentive listeners.

Joining pianist Florence Aquilina and violinist Gary McLaughlin, both SRJC faculty members, was Santa Rosa cellist Laura McClellan, whose sonorous instrument was in many ways the afternoon’s leading voice. The performance included trios by Beethoven and Foote, with Gliere’s Pieces for Violin and Cello, Op. 19, slipping inconspicuously in between.

Beethoven originally wrote his B-flat Trio, Op. 11, for clarinet with cello and piano, and here the violin took over the wind instrument part. The Sequoia began a little cautiously in developing the contrasting melodic fragments in the first movement, but settled in quickly, and the following Adagio was elegantly played. Aquilina led the way here with deft dynamic control, a lovely five-note descending figure ending the lyricism. The finale seemed a jolly romp, the string players trading allegretto themes from an opera aria unfamiliar to me.

Contrasting moods characterized the four short Gliere works, easily heard and I think easily forgotten. The first (Prelude) received a somber performance, and the third (Cradle Song) had the baby moving along at a substantial clip. The last time I heard the Cradle Song was when it was played by Heifetz and Piatigorsky in a long-ago Pasadena concert of my youth. It was as subtly played today as it was then.

Arthur Foote’s big Trio in B Flat, Op. 65, closed the concert. As with his C Major Piano Quintet, the second Trio is dramatic throughout and reflects the influence of Brahms, Wagner and Rubinstein. Born in 1853, Foote, with Chadwick, Paine and Beach, dominated the New England school of composition up to WW I. His style is declamatory and emphatically individual. The opening Allegro giocoso was well played but not an artistic whole. Unlike the more orchestral sound of Marin’s Tilden Trio, or the homogeneous voice from the seasoned Trio Navarro, the Sequoia’s sound has yet to convincingly blend. McLaughlin’s tone carries well but was thin, the vibrato for the most part narrow, and it never quite shared the richness and wide vibrato coming from the cello line.

The balance was better in the Tranquillo movement, beginning with a long and delicate piano-cello duo, finally being joined by the violin in upper registers. Brahms is the model here, the movement having the day’s best playing and most extended coloration. Aquilina led off the Finale with rapid up and down phrases, playing pointilistically before launching a theme reminiscent of parts of the first movement. Here the playing was ardent but frequently lacked the volume and breadth needed to make Foote’s music convincing.

This new trio of savvy local musicians portends terrific concerts in the future as they fine-tune their sound and continues to explore fresh repertoire.