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Choral and Vocal
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Choral and Vocal
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Symphony
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Symphony
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Choral and Vocal
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by Pamela Hicks Gailey
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CHAMBER REVIEW
Ft. Bragg Center For the Arts / Sunday, January 15, 2017
Carolyn Steinbuck, piano; Marcia Sloane, cello; Eric Kritz, clarinet

E. Kritz, C. Steinbuck and M. Sloane Bowing Before Preston Hall Audience

A MUSICAL ODYSSEY IN RIVITING PRESTON HALL RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 15, 2017

A standing room audience warmly greeted pianist Carolyn Steinbuck Jan. 15 in the season’s second Ft. Bragg Center For the Arts concert in Mendocino’s plebian Preston Hall.

Ms. Steinbuck, to be joined in the program’s second half by clarinetist Eric Kritz and cellist Marcia Sloane, programmed Schubert’s big B-Flat Major Sonata, D. 960. Schubert’s piano music is seemingly now on every recital program, but this is a recent development, and the first recording of a Schubert Sonata was as late as 1928. The pianist read extensive program notes and discussed the reasons for deciding to take the first movement repeat before beginning a 40-minute musical odyssey.

But the odyssey, although long, never dragged and underscored what pianists call the Schubert’s “heavenly length.” The tempos throughout the Sonata were judicious and never hurried, leaving room for many variations in the low bass trills and voice leading. The Hall’s resident piano was voiced warmly rather than brilliantly, and through the first two movements the playing was both dramatic and poetic. There were little artistic touches everywhere, including an arpeggiated chord before the Molto moderato’s concluding chords, and a beguiling and carefully shaped three-note repeated left-hand figures (played seco) in the Andante. The playing here was a highlight in the concert.

Ms. Steinbuck, a seminal figure in Mendocino County music for many years, pushed the tempo in the concluding Allegro but the music never got out of hand, and drew a raucous standing ovation. It was a workman performance that focused on the spirituality and often-delicate repose of the composer’s last and greatest Sonata.

Following a long intermission Mr. Kritz and Ms. Sloane joined the pianist for Muczynski’s Fantasy Trio, Op. 26, the work last heard locally with the Trio Navarro in 2015. The four-movement composition from 1971 received a reading that alternated aggressive rhythms and lyrical outbursts. It’s a free wheeling trio with constantly changing meter, and sporadically the clarinet line was lost in the sonic mix. Ms. Sloane played a long opening line in the Andante over pedal point in the piano, then Mr. Kritz performed a mournful theme over drone phrases from the cello. The music is not nostalgic, just sad, with a soft and haunting last cello and clarinet notes.

Strongly syncopated rhythmic playing and clipped phrases characterized the Allegro Deciso, the music jabbing with quick thrusts, and the Finale went from a bucolic beginning to a jaunty conclusion, with whiffs of sardonic Shostakovich. Ms. Sloane’s cello had the requisite low note growl.

Brahms’ late romanticism was on display in the concluding Clarinet Trio, Op. 114. Instrumental colors were foremost here with a wider cello vibrato and some pesky string pitch wavering in the high registers. Much of the lovely Adagio was question and response phrasing between Ms. Sloane and Ms. Kritz, with a subsidiary piano line. Mr. Kritz’s deft clarinet playing dominated the Andantino with phrasing of a tender dance.

A typical raucous Brahms Allegro ended the work with a perfect instrumental interplay of the many structural sequences of falling thirds. It was short, just under five minutes, but packed with energetic and at times virtuosic playing.

Another standing ovation brought this stellar Trio back for an encore, a droll and circus like piece (“Trickster”) by Ms. Sloane that not surprisingly featured her cello playing. It was spirited and a little spooky in a refined way, with a charming long decrescendo to a quiet finish.

Clearly Ms. Steinbuck’s Trio is a North Coast favorite and presented a performance that combined provocative programing, transparent ensemble and exemplary playing.