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Chamber
STYLISH HAYDN QUARTETS CLOSE GREEN ROOM SERIES
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, May 9, 2021
Completing the Green Music Center’s spring series series of “Green Room” virtual concerts, the St. Lawrence String Quartet played May 9 a lightweight program of two Haydn works. Lightweight perhaps, but in every way satisfying. The G Major Quartet (Op. 76, No.1) began the music that was supplement...
Recital
ECLECTIC PIANISM IN SPRING LAKE VILLAGE VIRTUAL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, May 5, 2021
During the pandemic The Santa Rosa Symphony’s virtual concerts received their due in performance praise, but another series, Spring Lake Village, more quietly presented monthly virtual concerts to a select local audience. May 5 saw the latest event, produced by impresario Robert Hayden, and feature...
Symphony
SONIC CONTRASTS HIGHLIGHT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SPRING PROGRAM
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 25, 2021
In a curious mixture of compositions, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s penultimate virtual concert of the season April 25 unfolded in ways both highly satisfying and a bit perplexing. Directed by resident Music Director Francesco Lecce-Chong, the event followed a familiar format – several contemporary wor...
Symphony
ZUILL PLAYS ZWILICH WITH SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The Santa Rosa Symphony took a cautious step toward the return of live music in their March 28 virtual concert by sharing the stage with an actual live soloist rather than an apparition. Star cellist Zuill Bailey was still masked, and his back was toward the equally masked and plexiglassed orchestra...
Chamber
ECLECTIC CELLO PIANO VIRTUAL RECITAL FROM TOMKINS ZIVIAN DUO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The venerable 41-year Redwood Arts Council Series in Occidental has joined the virtual recital world with low budget but artistically satisfying programs, mostly using videos filmed in the performer’s residences. March 28 saw the Tanya Tomkins-Eric Zivian duo present an eclectic program from their ...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HITS THE SWEET SPOT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Small orchestras can inhabit a sweet spot between chamber ensembles and full orchestras, but how well they hit that spot depends on the composer's orchestration and the players' ability to project. That dependence was on full display in the Santa Rosa Symphony's Feb. 28 concert, which featured three...
Chamber
NOVEL OBOE-HARPSICHORD RECITAL FROM AIKEN DUO IN UKIAH
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Oboe and harpsichord recitals are a rare North Bay event, even in a pandemic environment where a formal hall setting isn’t available. So it was a delight Feb. 21 to experience on the Ukiah Symphony’s website a recital by Symphony oboist Beth Aiken and harpsichordist husband Tom. The Aiken home vis...
Symphony
A HEALTHY MIX OF TRANSCRIPTIONS AND ORIGINALS FROM THE SR SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Transcriptions and ascending arpeggios were the order of the day on Jan. 24, as the Santa Rosa Symphony performed uplifting works by Bach/Webern, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Marianna Martínes and Mozart. The concert video was made in Weill Hall on Jan. 9. The first transcription was Webern’s 1935 renderi...
Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
CHAMBER REVIEW

Trio Navarro

TRIO NAVARRO TURNS QUARTET AT SSU

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, May 17, 2009

Season-ending chamber music concerts, especially in the spring, often feature repertoire of a less-demanding nature, light as May breezes. The Trio Navarro would have none of that at their May 17 concert, programming two massive piano quartets, both demanding focus and stamina from the performers and the 60 listeners in Sonoma State’s Ives Hall.

Adding the wonderful violist Nancy Ellis to their longstanding ensemble, the Navarro plunged first into the Piano Quartet of William Walton, written in 1919 when the composer was only 17. It’s an assured work, filled with the harmonic language of Ravel and the drive of a lesser-known Gallic composer, Louis Vierne, whose great Piano Quintet mirrors the dynamism of the Walton as much as Ravel’s rich intervals. The presence of the viola, and perhaps the close proximity of the shell to the piano, made for a better sonic balance than the usual emphasis on low (mostly cello) frequencies in Ives 119. Roy Malan’s violin high tessitura sounded radiant, particularly at the end of the opening Allegramente movement , where his telling five-note phrase over cello and viola pizzicato provided a breathtaking reprise from the tumult.

Stridency continued in the Allegro Scherzando, with a three-instrument string fugue, led by cellist Jill Brindel. Pianist Marilyn Thompson finally entered with an orchestral sound. The Navarro caught the menacing nature of the music, announced by a descending triad and continuing with another fugue to the finish. There is little connection with any other composer here, the writing demonic and wholly individual.

The lyrical third movement was totally different, with strumming arpeggios from the piano. Brindel’s cello sang a lovely theme, handing it off to Ellis’s viola, and there was just an echo of Vaughan William’s “Lark Ascending” from Malan’s elegant violin.

The finale returned to tone-cluster outbursts from the piano, and to rhythms that paralleled Stravinsky’s Petrouchka. Here the Trio’s interplay of line was superb, the bright acoustics of Ives contributing to the impact. Sforzandos in the piano’s bass came thick and fast, an accession to the thunder of Walton’s conception. This was a striking performance of a rarely played piano quartet, and bravos from the audience were plentiful.

Following intermission, the Navarro presented another piano quartet, the Op. 26 Brahms in A Major. The opening theme from the piano continued the dense textures of the Walton but added masterful counterpoint. The tempos were leisurely, but the momentum was never lost, with Thompson’s piano line sensuously underpinning the strings. Everything was serene in the Poco Adagio, pedal points in the piano and heart-on-sleeve romanticism lending a nostalgic air to the movement. There are big contrasts and thematic equality in this movement, and the Navarro made the most of them, with the cello frequencies sometimes being felt on my feet, planted firmly on the wood risers at the back of the room.

The Scherzo’s “question and answer” sections were a premonition of the rambunctious, ardently played Finale. The Brahms is a long work, and coming after the Walton, it stretched the listener’s attention. Nonetheless, I found the reading convincing.

Closing a three-concert SSU season, the Navarro’s virtuosic performance gave no reason to alter my view that this is the finest resident piano trio (with estimable guest performers) in Northern California.