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SIX GUITARISTS IN UNIQUE NAPA RECITAL
by Gary Digman
Sunday, July 25, 2021
The first Napa Valley Guitar Festival was held at Napa’s First Presbyterian Church July 25, and featured performances from six classical guitarists. The Church is an iconic structure in downtown Napa, its huge white presence dominating the scene, and the white theme continues inside punctuated by be
Chamber
CLARA SCHUMANN TRIO COMMANDS VOM CHAMBER MUSIC CONCERT AT HANNA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 24, 2021
The Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Series has begun several virtual and a few live concerts in its new seventh season, some broadcast from Sonoma’s Hanna Center Hall and some in posh local venues. July 24’s video had a small live audience and a well-produced video program of three works. Titled “
Chamber
EXEMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MENDO FESTIVAL FT. BRAGG CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Faced with the impossibility of presenting concerts in the iconic large white tent on the bluff, the Mendocino Music Festival opted to use Ft. Bragg’s Cotton Auditorium for ten events in the abbreviated 35th season. San Francisco’s Alexander String Quartet played July 21 to a fully masked audience
Chamber
ECLECTIC PROGRAMMING AT PIANOSONOMA CONCERT IN SCHROEDER HALL
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Tuesday, July 20, 2021
After a dark year bereft of live performance, pianoSonoma launched July 20 the first Vino & Vibrato concert of the 2021 season in Sonoma State's Schroeder Hall, albeit sadly senza vino due to Covid protocols. Three exceptional musicians showered the audience with an interesting variety of pia
Chamber
RARELY-PLAYED SCHUMANN HIGHLIGHTS HEALDSBURG RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 10, 2021
Brave New Music sporadically produces concerts in and around Healdsburg, and July 10’s violin recital in downtown St. Paul’s Church must have been one of the first post-lockdown, post-be-extra-careful classical music concerts in Sonoma County's summer season. New Music Founder Gary McLaughlin with
Chamber
ECHOS ON A WARM SUMMER NIGHT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, July 10, 2021
ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s first concert in a year and a half, “A Musical Promenade,” was a promenade indeed. When patrons arrived at San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for the 6:00 performance July 10, they were funneled through the garden to the Duncan Hall patio, where folding chairs were set
Chamber
LONG DISTANCE LOVE BEGINS VOM SUMMER FESTIVAL
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Thursday, June 24, 2021
The Valley of the Moon Music Festival offered a 7th season preview June 24 with a stunning online concert, aptly named Long Distance Love, featuring inspired performances of Beethoven's short song cycle An die ferne Geliebte,, and selections from Brahms’ beloved Liebeslieder Wal
Recital
ROMERO'S ARTISTRY IN SLV RECITAL PROGRAMMING AND PERFORMANCE
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 2, 2021
Gustavo Romero has been an admired visitor to North Bay stages, playing over a decade recitals at Dominican University, the Music at Oakmont concerts and at the Spring Lake Village Concert Series. He returned June 2 to SLV in a virtual recital, videoed from his home concert hall the University of N
RUBICON'S VIRTUAL CONCERT A MALANGE OF CONTRASTS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, May 16, 2021
The inaugural concert of a new Mendocino County chamber group is a reason for celebration, and the Rubicon Trio made the most of a mixed musical menu during a May16 virtual concert. Presented by the Ukiah Symphony Orchestra as the last in their “Salons with the Symphony” Series, the Rubicon began w
Recital
PIANO VIRTUOSITY IN YAKUSHEV'S REDWOOD ARTS RECITAL
by Nicki Bell
Sunday, May 16, 2021
Russian pianist Ilya Yakushev’s recital for the Redwood Arts Council was perhaps the local season’s virtual music at the greatest distance, as the filming May 16 came from a church in St. Petersburg. And good filming it was, with multiple camera viewpoints of the church, full and split screens and
CHAMBER REVIEW

SF Piano Trio Following Encore Jan. 19 in Occidental

BEETHOVEN FEATURED IN SF TRIO'S OCCIDENTAL CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 19, 2020

Conventional repertoire in uncommonly good performances highlighted the San Francisco Piano Trio’s Jan. 19 concert in the Occidental Center for the Arts.

Haydn’s No. 44 Trio (Hob. XV:28) came from late in his long career, when he was in and out of London, and received a sparkling reading that featured pianist Jeffrey Sykes’ stylish scale playing and good ensemble throughout the three movements. It was the first time Classical Sonoma has heard the Center’s new piano, replacing a small instrument that had dead bass strings and inadequate power. The newer instrument had a “wet” tonal character that Mr. Sykes, with careful pedal, made the delight of the E Major Trio’s energy come brightly alive.

The long introduction to the Allegretto was played with steady rhythm, leading to many thematic repeats in the finale (Allegro) that was boisterous. Jean-Michel Fonteneau’s cello line acted mostly to support violinist Axel Strauss, who in turn seemed to accompany the fluent piano part. But that’s always present in Haydn’s piano trios, and the San Francisco gave the music life and charm.

Charm was mostly missing from the Brahms C Minor Trio, Op. 101, which is dark and dramatic. Mr. Strauss’ introductory remarks from the stage made a historical comparison between Brahms and Tchaikovsky’s music, and it’s true that at the time of this Trio’s composition (1887) many musicians found Brahms’s music heavy, dense and often ponderous. The San Francisco met the challenges head on, never letting the demanding Allegro energetico become slack, but also emphasizing several moments of lyricism in the movement.

Rhythmic subtlety highlighted the wonderful Andante, poignantly played and in contrast with the grim force of the finale. Here Mr. Strauss and Mr. Fonteneau traded short solos and finally the work’s surging themes, so vigorously presented, moved to a surprising triumph in C Major. A masterpiece splendidly played that demanded audience concentration.

Following intermission the great trio masterpiece of Beethoven’s later years, the B Flat, Op. 97 (“Archduke”), occupied the entire second half. Judicious tempos were adopted in a straightforward reading that had fine ensemble, far removed from the classic Cortot-Thibaud-Casals “Archduke” recording where individual virtuosity prevails. String intonation was everywhere good. The Andante with at least four variations, mostly in D Major, was captivatingly played and the majestic themes had strong projection from the musicians.

In the concluding Allegro moderato Mr. Sykes played many pungent sforzandos, pushing the momentum that never obscured the clarity of the cello and violin lines. It was joyous and convincing.

Responding to a standing ovation from the capacity audience the San Francisco selected an encore: the scherzo from the Op. 1, No. 1, E Flat Trio. It had a fast and frothy performance, a harbinger perhaps of a tsunami of brilliant Beethoven performances to come in 2020, the composer’s 250th birthday being Dec. 17.