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BRAHMS-ERA TRIOS HIGHLIGHT OAKMONT CHAMBER CONCERT
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Chamber
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Chamber
THE LINCOLN RETURNS WITH CLARKE'S PUNGENT TRIO
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, November 18, 2021
Chamber
THRILLING PIANO QUINTETS IN MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 14, 2021
Chamber
MUSCULAR BRAHMS FROM IVES COLLECTIVE IN GLASER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 14, 2021
Chamber
SPARKLING WIND, STRING, HARP MUSIC AT DEVON HOUSE GARDEN CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, October 9, 2021
CHAMBER REVIEW
Ives Collective / Sunday, November 14, 2021
An impressive group of musicians from the Bay Area's premiere music organizations take joy in bringing audiences electric repertoire, and sharing special collaborations aimed at presenting power musical experiences and fresh interpretations. Join us as Gwendolyn Mok (piano), Roy Malan (violin), Stephen Harrison (cello) and Susan Freier (violin/viola) present a program ranging from Brahms to Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's Five Negro Spiritual Melodies for Piano Trio.

Ives Collective Chamber Ensemble

MUSCULAR BRAHMS FROM IVES COLLECTIVE IN GLASER

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 14, 2021

Leaving SRJC’s Newman Auditorium for the first time in decades, the College’s Chamber Concert Series presented a season-opening concert Nov. 14 in Santa Rosa’s Glaser Center with the four-musician Bay-Area based Ives Collective.

The season, the first given since 2020, is dedicated to Series Founder Norma Brown, the doyen of Sonoma County music for decades and a past college faculty member. The Glaser’s 350 seats are far less intimate than the cozy Newman Auditorium, but alas the College is still in COVID lockup until the end of the Spring semester.

Ives brought just three works, beginning with Erwin Schuloff’s beguiling Duo for Violin and Cello, played with virtuosic flair by cellist Stephen Harrison and Violinist Susan Freier. The 20-minute performance mixes genres with echoes of Dvorak, Janacek and Kodaly. Throughout the four movements the instrumental interplay was captivating – cello drone figures and repeated phrases, a low register threnody by Ms. Freier, slashing cello bowing, wandering thematic lines over pizzicato in the other instrument. The finale (Moderato) was intensely played, yet faded to a lovely Pianissimo at the end. The music from 1925 unfolded from this string duo as a journey, but not quite an odyssey. Splendid.

Coleridge-Taylor’s Five Negro Melodies for Piano Trio closed the first half, with Bay Area stalwart pianist Gwendolyn Mok joining. Each of the five works from 1906 were played with great care and individuality, the modulations in “Sometimes I feel Like a Motherless Child” contrasting with the romantic and at times orchestral “I was a Way Down Yonder.” The more dissonant “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel” performance had choice off beat accents, and the bucolic “They Will Not Lend Me a Child” was a piano-cello conversation, reminiscent of the period’s light opera or even Broadway show tunes.

The last “My Lord Delivered Daniel” was played as a pulsating celebratory event, the flavor of Dvorak’s compositions always hand, but with the composer’s charming distinctive character. It was a concert highlight, elegantly and convincingly performed.

Many of the 90 in the audience came to hear the famous Brahms C Minor Piano Quartet, Op.60, that occupied the entire second half. Manifold stories of the composer’s relationship to Clara Schumann during the early 1860-1875 period abound, some wholly speculative. However, the aching majesty of the themes in melancholic Andante amply support the advocates of unrequited romance, and the musicians, joined by violinist Roy Malan and with Ms. Freier moving to viola, played the movement briskly. Mr. Harrington’s wide vibrato and lush sonority were at the forefront.

Both Mr. Harrington and Ms. Freier’s playing of the glorious main first movement theme projected throughout the hall the beginnings of palpable musical despair, and Ms. Mok’s piano line was prominent and often stormy. Ensemble clarity wasn’t always present during the Allegro non Troppo intense resonance, but passion was continually conveyed.

The success of the performance was marred by several things. The eminent violinist Roy’s Malan had an off night with seldom accurate intonation, and the hall’s overly bright piano was played aggressively by Ms. Mok, effectively covering the string sound at the big climaxes. String players usually like a piano with a warm and acommodating sound, and this afternoon the instrument had a glittering top register and ample power at the expense of tone color. Glaser’s acoustics contributed to this result with its low reverberation, direct and dry quality.

Well, okay, this Brahms Quartet demands considerable sonority in three of the four movements, and the performance did had potency throughout. No encore seemed possible following such instrumental emotion, and none was given.

Series officials announced that the Alexander String Quartet concert has been changed to May 1 in Glaser, filling out the new season of six events.