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by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 20, 2022
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Recital
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Symphony
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Symphony
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Choral and Vocal
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SYMPHONY REVIEW

Rubicon Trio

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 with the Op. 2 Buxtehude Trio Sonata. I can’t recall a Buxtehude piece on any North Coast program, save perhaps for a sporadic work at the Redwood Guild of Organist’s events. Pianist Ben Rueb had the continuo part, with violinist Jeff Ives and cellist Joel Cohen playing the themes, with Mr. Cohen’s instrument (originally a Gamba) adding warmth.

Each piece was recorded in a private home, and the Scherzo from Brahms’ Op. 87 Trio should have benefited from the piano’s sonic depth, generated by Mr. Rued using a rarely-encountered 278cm Fazioli. Alas, the performance was tame and felt underpowered, even allowing for the richness of the glorious middle section of the 1882 work.

Mr. Ives and Mr. Cohen played captivating duos in Suk’s Op. 23 Elegie, with Mr. Cohen’s wide vibrato perfectly suiting the lush music. The mood of nostalgia was effectively pierced by the demanding second theme, the Rubicon balancing well the contrasts. It was a concert highlight.

Mr. Ives’ introductory remarks mentioned his personal affinity for Haydn, so the ensemble playing of the second (Andante) and third (Allegro) movements of the D Major Trio (No. 38) were a lyrical success. The soft repeated chords and the slow march were well played, with accurate intonation. The single Prelude and Fugue section of Turina’s three-movement Op. 35 Trio sounded at times as a lament, with a strange "backwards" fugue at the end and a deceptively simple fantasy phrases featuring Mr. Cohen’s burnished long solo line.

Concluding was Rubicon’s playing of Paul Schoenfeld’s popular Café Music, a three-movement mélange of fetching jazz and swing rhythms written in 1987. The second Andante Moderato was given a good but at times less-than-buoyant reading. The adventuresome offbeat rhythms proved tricky to manage. Harmonic pointing in the playing was convincing.

The concert was initially marred by a 15-minute technical delay where alternating lack of sound and visuals irritated subscribers that posted comments on the video chat page. Equally pesky was the video being out of focus for the entire time, perhaps the result of the music being live and the recording tech not paying attention to the feed. Usually virtual concerts are taped to avoid this danger.