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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

Manhattan Piano Trio Oct. 13 at Gualala Arts Concert (Judy McNeill photo)

POTENT MANHATTAN TRIO PERFORMANCES AT GUALALA ARTS CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 13, 2019

Gualala Arts has been North Coast gem since 1980s, presenting a wide menu of musical programs in the charming small concert hall in the redwoods near the ocean in Gualala, and the Manhattan Piano Trio opened the new season Oct. 13. It was the fifth appearance in Gualala for this New York-based ensemble, with pianist founder pianist Milana Strezeva joined by Trio newcomers Solomiya Ivakhiv (violin) and cellist Sophie Shao.

Haydn’s G Major Trio (Hob. XV/25) opened the concert before an audience of 200 area residents, with Ms. Ivakhiv (standing throughout) leading an interpretation that was direct and often driven in the sprightly opening andante. The hall’s acoustics are almost without reverberation, but the sound is direct and “Papa” Haydn’s compositional charm was everywhere evident. Phrasing in the first two movements was conventional and favored a rich string sound, finishing with a long fermata in the songful adagio.

Things changed in the swirling finale, a rondo with many thematic repeats in a gypsy style (Hungarian? Balkan?) that featured Ms. Strezeva’s driving pianism that although forceful never covered her companion’s sound. It was integrated and balanced playing, jocular but everywhere convincing, and received loud applause.

Schumann’s Five Pieces in Folk Style, Op. 102, followed, spotlighting Ms. Shao’s rich cello virtuosity. Contrasts in the music were emphasized, with perhaps the highlight being the alternating lyrical and then somber effects in the Langsam that resembled a lullaby, with three vivid chords at the end, two of them in arpeggios. Fine instrumental balance continued through the third and fourth movements, the Nicht Schnell slightly strident with several key modulations, and the concluding Stark und Markiert in strict tempo and Ms. Shao’s lovely resonant playing and deft bow control. The hall’s piano is voiced warmly and Ms. Strezeva’s tone color in soft passages was splendid.

The afternoon’s surprise came with Galician composer Anatol Kos-Anatolsky’s Poeme for Violin and Piano, probably in its North Coast premiere. In remarks from the stage Ms. Ivakhiv mentioned that the piece was just recently discovered, though composed long before the composer’s death in 1983. Ms. Strezeva played the pungent introduction with muscular drama, leading into episodic sections that were colorfully tonal and full of high register violin writing and extended pianissimos between phrases.

In the cadenza the violinist favored much tempo fluctuation and potent sforzandos that evolved into a tumultuous folk dance at presto speed, the two instruments often many registers apart but with palpable excitement. The light humorous ending was a surprise.

After a long intermission with gratis refreshments Dvorák’s great Dumky Trio in E Minor, Op. 90, received a committed and convincing reading. The Manhattan seemed to revel in the quirky and complex six-movement piece, with virtuosity everywhere: strong thematic projection, pungent but sporadically dry tone from Ms. Ivakhiv, Ms. Shao’s drone cello line under raucous Czech dance rhythms and lovely unison playing from the two strings. Beginning with the mystery of the first 60 measures, amazing passionate and laconic contrasts unfold in this unique work from 1891, so different from contemporary composers (Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Rubinstein, St. Saëns, Reger, Arensky) that were writing in more established trio formats. The first three movements were played without pause.

Ensemble was solid throughout; even in places were the tempo sharply accelerated or when thematic fragments from each instrument could have blurred the music. They never did. In this work Dvorák can’t let go of expected section endings, and here the Manhattan brought innovative moods and excitement to each extended cadenza and each short violin and piano section, sometimes in tremolo and ostinato. The playing was instrumentally surefooted and artistically distinguished, and at 34 minutes it never seemed at all long.

This elegant and thrilling Dumky performance generated a standing ovation, but no encore was offered.







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