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CHAMBER REVIEW

Trio Navarro Sept. 29 in Schroeder Hall

DEMANDING PIANO TRIOS ADORN TRIO NAVARRO'S OPENING CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 29, 2019

Continuing a decades-long search for innovative piano trio repertoire, Sonoma Stateís resident Trio Navarro opened their current season Sept. 29 in Schroeder Hall with three works of mostly arcane and rigorous music.

Not rare of course was Mozartís G Major Trio, K. V. 564, that opened the program in a buoyant performance with Marilyn Thompsonís warm piano sound. The Schroeder house instrument is voiced with less brilliance than the two stage pianos in Weill Hall, and the music sounded clearly even in the allegroís fast legato passages that at times were joyful dances.

In the andante violinist Victor Romasevichís unsteady intonation quickly resolved with many ascending phrases of beauty in splendid ensemble. This work, possibly arranged by Mozart from a piano sonata, received a reading that stressed musical simplicity and light touches from all three instruments.

Frank Bridgeís early Phastasie Trio in C Minor is anything but initially charming, with a potent opening phrase that then moved through five movements of continual tempo and mood changes. The Navarro stressed the mixture of percussive effects with surging lyricism. Here and there references to Arensky and Rachmaninoff could be heard, but just snippets, and there was a splendid duo with Mr. Romasevitchís high register and cellist Jill Rachuy Brindelís rich bottom sound. There is much harmonic interest and the composer gives each instrument the same theme to announce over perhaps 15 measures.

Near the end the Navarro played a big repetition of the menacing opening theme in dramatic phrases, and pushed the music to the end, albeit with several deceptive cadences. The response from the audience of 50 was tepid.

Following intermission Georgy Catoireís F Minor Trio concluded the afternoon, a piece the Navarro has played before and the mood was moved from quirky drama to saturated romanticism with a Russian flair, with bit of Tchaikovsky, but so different. The allegro moderato is a high temperature movement where the ensemble never lets up. Richer violin tone was needed here, but Ms. Brindel played well the themes that are attractive but not easily grasped.

Momentum continued in the allegretto fantastico that is harmonically foreign to contemporaries (DvorŠk, St. SaŽns, Ravel, Liadov, Reger), the high point for me being an elegant held note in the cello over Ms. Thompsonís wandering piano configurations. The playing in the finale (molto allegro) found the trio building abbreviated and extended climaxes, with flourishes in the piano part. Itís a difficult piece to pigeonhole, unique and strange where a touch of Schumannís chordal progressions and Rachmaninoffís temperament appear.

The Trio gave a committed performance of a work that is difficult to get ones arms (or ears) around. Applause was temperate. There was no encore.
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