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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
Oakmont Concert Series / Thursday, October 16, 2008
LINCOLN PIANO TRIO

LINCOLN TRIO DOES HONEST ABE PROUD

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 23, 2008

It’s a flood tide for piano trios in the North Bay. For years SSU’s Trio Navarro has given numerous wonderful concerts, and recently the Tilden Trio (San Rafael) and the fledgling Sequoia Trio (Santa Rosa) have entered the fray. October 16 found a travelling troupe, Chicago’s Lincoln Trio, proving again the viability of the classical combination of piano, violin and cello.

Before an Oakmont Concerts Series of 200, the Lincoln began with Mendelssohn, but not the most popular of trios, the D Minor. This afternoon started with the C Minor, Op. 66, and it was a felicitous selection. Pianist Marta Aznavoorian quickly seized the leading role, the opening Allegro Energetico fleetly unfolding with just a touch of shady menace. The excellent ensemble continued through an elegant Andante Espressivo, sad and plaintive, and with a fast interplay of voices in the energetic third-movement Scherzo. Violinist Desiree Ruhstrat’s lovely pianissimo led to a bantamweight ending, and the finale Allegro Appassionato was a concentrated romp. Cellist David Cunliffe, solving some pesky pitch problems, supported the long line of the last movement. with its captivating interior Bach chorale.

Concluding the first half was “Autumn” from Piazzola’s “Four Seasons of Buenos Aires.” The Argentinean master’s music isn’t usually associated with a piano trio, but here the tango-themes made good sense, led by the cello and slow arpeggios from the piano. The long slides in the violin were sparkling, and the short work ended with a
spicy, almost lascivious piano glissando. The audience loved it.

Two works comprised the second half, one novel and one as familiar as the warm fall day outside the hall. A hybrid work, Lawrence Dillons’ “The Better Angels of our Nature,” came from a commission that required the words of Lincoln to be woven into a musical texture. Here the narrator was Oakmont’s own Victor Spear, renowned chess historian and, with his wife Jane, an avid classical-music concertgoer. There were three long passages taken from the President’s letters or public statements, titled Integrity, Humor and Vision. Each came from the podium accompanied by the Trio’s musings, more background and pastoral than an equal partner with Dr. Spear’s stentorian locution. The background texture comprised slow rolled piano chords, high register string unisons and snippets of pizzicato and sforzando phrases. Lincoln’s word had dignity and heft, the music pretty forgettable but having in a long coda the last word.

Brahms wrote at least six popular trios, the Piano Trio No. 2 in C Major, Op. 87, coming from 1882. It’s never had the emotional impact for me as the earlier B Major Trio (Op. 8), but is a great work in the form, crammed with inspiration. In four movements, there are thematic relationships between the first and fourth and the architecture is sublime.

The Lincoln gave the work careful control of dynamics, often submerging the piano in the string sound. The episodic Andante Con Moto, the center of the work, opened with an absolute equanimity of unison strings, shimmering, and the sound finally melted into a tender but terminal void.

The animated finale was played with rich scales in all three instruments, Aznavoorian’s piano frequently anticipating the other’s entrances and pushing the tempo. It must be said that Ruhstrat has a refined violin sound, but the tone is not big or especially broad, something important for Brahms. Hers is not an “Oistrakh” sound, but in all ways secure and pliant, reflecting the discipline of her teacher, Aaron Rosand. Cunliff’s cello in this glorious Allegro giocoso supplied a firm bass, lacking perhaps only lush aggressiveness of the Tilden’s Peter Wyrick on the same stage two months ago. The racehorse ending brought the audience to its feet, but no encore was offered.

Artistically able to stand comparison with our resident and guest trios, the Lincoln is a fresh and professional addition to the chamber music scene, and one hopes they can return soon.