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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
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
CHAMBER REVIEW
SRJC Chamber Concerts / Friday, April 16, 2010
Amelia Piano Trio

Amelia Piano Trio

POISED ON THE EDGE OF GREATNESS

by Steve Osborn
Friday, April 16, 2010

For its program at Santa Rosa’s Newman Auditorium on April 16, the Amelia Trio opted for three unknown piano trios by known composers: Debussy, Bernstein and Chopin. All three trios are the works of teenagers, composed around the ages of 18 (Debussy), 19 (Bernstein) and 18 (Chopin). Although they all qualify as juvenilia, each trio already contains many elements of the composer’s characteristic style.

Those characteristics were evident during the opening bars of the Debussy, which were suffused with his signature impressionist style. Lush and sensuous tones predominated, heightened by the Amelia’s utterly relaxed playing. The musicians were clearly well rehearsed, and the string players rarely consulted their scores. Instead of burying their heads in notes, they looked at each other meaningfully while filling the room with gorgeous sound. Glissandos were the order of the day. Violinist Anthea Kreston was remarkably fluid and assured, and her cellist husband Jason Duckles matched her with a beautiful tone that carried throughout the acoustically resonant space.

Complementing this elegant couple was the diminutive pianist Rieko Aizawa, who played with the lid fully open, the better to control her dynamics. She is a consummate chamber musician, never letting her instrument overpower the strings, but rising to the soloistic occasion when circumstances demand.

All three played the Debussy to the hilt, moving from the expansiveness of the first movement, to the well articulated pizzicatos of the second, to the enchanting cello solo in the third, and finally to the cascading rhythms and forward propulsion of the last. It was a great performance, and the music was clearly like Debussy, but it wasn’t one of the later masterpieces that make his work so distinctive. Instead of real Debussy, it was a debut.

The situation was much the same with the Bernstein trio, which he composed while an undergraduate at Harvard. The sparse beginning led to frantic string work over a steady piano. Here Aizawa’s playing stood out, her lines articulated with an assured attack. The piano is, after all, a percussion instrument, and she brought those qualities to the fore while acting as a foil to the fluid string work.

The Bernstein unfolded as one might expect for a work written in 1937, when the jazzy rhythms of New York City were still relatively new. There was lots of pizzicato, lots of starts and stops, lots of playfulness. Again, it wasn’t a masterpiece, but it contained many of the familiar styles that bloomed in West Side Story and On the Town.

As for Chopin, the rarity of the trio performance was made extra rare by Kreston’s decision to play the violin part on a viola. In a witty introduction, she explained how Chopin himself had expressed the view that he should have written the violin part for viola, given that it “would accord better with the cello.” Indeed, most of the action occurs on the D and A strings, a domain that the viola shares with the violin. Based on this evidence, Kreston transcribed the violin part to the viola, retaining almost all the original notes, with only occasional forays downward.

Whatever the historical authenticity, Kreston demonstrated that she is a consummate chin player, equally at home on the violin, viola, or any other instrument that might fit under her chin. Her viola did indeed accord beautifully with the cello, particularly in the second movement, which features an extended duet between the two instruments.

As is inevitable with Chopin, however, the piano eventually came to the fore. After three movements of relatively balanced music, the fourth opened with a big piano solo and went on from there. It’s the only movement that really sounds like Chopin, with evocative Polish dance themes emerging from a filigree of notes. Both Kreston and Duckles stood aside as Aizawa played Chopin to the max. Like everything else on the program, it was a great performance, offering a lucid view of the composer’s early strivings toward a mature style.

That view summed up the entire performance. Three composers poised on the edge of greatness, played by a trio that is just beginning to hit its prime.