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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

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.