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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
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

Gould Trio with Clarinetist Robert Plane Jan. 26 (A. Wasserman Photo)

CHALLENGING WORKS IN GOULD TRIO'S MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT

by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 26, 2020

The Gould Piano Trio, founded 28 years ago by violinist Lucy Gould, has been one of the UK’s most prestigious ensembles. Its January 26 performance in Mill Valley Chamber Music Society’s series demonstrated how richly they deserve that reputation. The concert, held at the Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church, featured three demanding works, all of which were stunningly performed.

Members of the Trio: Lucy Gould, violin; Benjamin Frith, piano; and cellist Richard Lester, with clarinetist Robert Plane, first spoke from the stage about the challenges inherent in planning a program, quoting Fritz Kreisler’s advice: “First you play what you want the audience to hear, then you play what the audience wants to hear,” then played the rarely-heard Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano in A Minor, Op. 40, by Carl Frühling (1868-1937). Recently rediscovered after lying unplayed for many decades, this lovely work was given a moving reading by Messrs. Plane, Lester, and Frith.

Frühling’s personal story illustrates how political and social upheaval can abort a brilliant career. Although few details are known, Frühling, a Jew from Lemberg, Galicia (now Lvov, Ukraine), lived most of his life in Vienna and was sucked under during that city’s virulent anti-Semitic wave. He survived only to die in obscurity and poverty a year before the deportations began in earnest. His music went underground but this Trio survived, as well as a companion version he wrote for violin, cello and piano and a handful of other works, now attracting attention from musicians.

The Clarinet Trio is suffused with warmth and charm, and was enthusiastically welcomed by the Mill Valley audience. Its initial movement, Mässig schnell (Allegro moderato), began with a lovely clarinet and piano duo that ascended and descended in curlicues of sound. It carried an undercurrent of sadness, yet when all three instruments were playing, was inexpressibly lush. The second movement, Anmütig bewegt (Grazioso), incorporated two dances in three-quarter time, the elegant Viennese waltz and exuberant Ländler country dance. The Gould’s sensitive playing in the Andante third movement evoked a mourning procession, with musical mourners sharing reminiscences, three together, then two; finally, the clarinet poignantly alone. The fourth movement, Allegro Vivace, thrilled with shifting tempos, complex rhythms and a vigorous conclusion. Instrumental balances created clarity for each instrument even in complicated ensemble. This clarinet trio has substantial worth.

Ms. Gould joined her colleagues to perform “Four Fables” by Welsh composer Huw Watkins, a co-commissioned work for violin, cello, piano and clarinet. By way of verbal introduction, Mr. Lester joked that commissioning a work doesn’t necessarily mean it will be enjoyable to play, but this one, he nodded, is. They have performed it a dozen times since it was completed in 2018. The four movements are not based on any known fables or fairy tales (the difference between a fairy tale and fable is slight: fables contain a moral lesson). Rather, the composer has said his inspiration came from Robert Schumann’s Märchenerzählungen (fairy tale narrations), which also refer to no text. The musicians and listeners, therefore, can summon their own stories.

The four parts, played in sequence with pause between, are sonically related to one another. They are mysterious, full of imagination and brightly colored. Their connection to one another is enhanced by similar tempo and pace, and three are marked Lento.

In each, Mr. Frith played with much damper pedal so that each line shimmered into the next, creating an atmosphere of ambiguity and mystery. Ms. Gould’s violin in its purity and delicacy rivaled bird song, and Mr. Frith’s cello lines were dark and burnished. Throughout, Mr. Plane’s clarinet line sang eloquently, and the piece’s harmonic structure was often unusual and always beautiful. Each movement evoked further advancement into a mysterious territory. Low pizzicatos underpinned sparkling jumps in the clarinet and piano parts. In the Allegro second movement there was an instrumental chase that was almost palpable, then a musical slowing, with a dawning realization that one might be lost in deep woods. In movement three the clarinet line mounted thrilling arpeggios over sustained cello lines, and somehow this suggested (getting into the spirit) that the hero of this amorphous tale was being tested for bravery. A repetitive flutter from the piano line could have been a quickened pulse or the flight of a butterfly. Deep in the spell of the fourth movement the piece ended abruptly, without a resolution, as though suggesting that the journey is never over.

After a short intermission the musicians returned to play Dvořák’s Piano Trio No. 3 in F-minor, Op. 65. Dvořák usually worked quickly, but he took his time writing these four movements, and they are complicated, with quick changes in pace and dynamics. Only the third movement has a single tempo indication, (Poco adagio), while the others are rife with rapid changes in pace. Such quick phrases and tempos challenge an ensemble, but the Gould players handled them with élan, although occasionally the cello’s sound was covered by the piano. The entire work is a wealth of mercury-swift alterations of rhythms, moods and feelings, with mournful singing of the cello part in the third movement and the glorious melodies from Ms. Gould’s violin all wonderfully matched by Mr. Frith’s glimmering pianistic touch. Each musician played with intense focus and virtuoso technique to create a magical sonic experience.

It was a rousing performance, nuanced and also bold. As the final notes faded, the audience stood to applaud with loud appreciation.