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Recital
ELEGANT PIANISM IN WATER MUSIC CHARMS HOUSE RECITAL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 03, 2017
A standard component of house concerts often involve listeners hearing the music but also smelling the lasagna and seeing the champagne in the adjacent kitchen. But it was not the case Sept. 3 at Sandra Shen’s Concerts Grand House Recital performance, as her riveting piano playing enthralled the sm...
Chamber
YOUNG MUSICIANS SHINE AT PIANO SONOMA CONCERT
by Lee Ormasa
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
The third in a series of four concerts by Piano Sonoma artists in residence, part of the Vino and Vibrato Series, was held August 1 in Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center. Entitled “The Masters,” the program included works by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. Piano Sonoma is a summer artist-in...
Chamber
THRILLING PROGRAM CLOSES VOM CHAMBER FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, July 30, 2017
The finale of the two-week Valley of the Moon Music Festival closed July 30 with “The Age of Bravura” concert at the Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. The musical selections held to this year’s Festival theme “Schumann’s World - His Music and the Music He Loved.“ This summer Festival features chamber mus...
Chamber
PERIOD INSTRUMENTAL SOUND AT PENULTIMATE VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 30, 2017
In the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival’s penultimate concert July 30 the perennial issue of period and modern instruments was apparent. But only in the concluding Mendelssohn Trio, as the performances in the two first half works easily avoided instrumental comparisons. Clara Schumann’s t...
Chamber
ECLECTIC REPERTOIRE IN FETCHING VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 22, 2017
One of the purposes of summer music festivals is to present unfamiliar music in an attractive and often small audience setting. The Valley of the Moon Music Festival delightfully met these requirements July 22 and 23 with two concerts in the small hall at Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. Classical Sono...
Recital
ADAMS' PHRYGIAN GATES HIGHLIGHTS MORKOSKI FESTIVAL PERFORMANCE
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Attendees at the Molly Morkoski Mendocino Music Festival recital July 22 were in for a treat, both pianistically and if they happened to buy a tasty cookie during intermission. The program included Beethoven’s Op. 27 Moonlight Sonata, Adams’ Phrygian Gates, a surprise add-on of Grieg’s Holberg Suit...
Symphony
SOARING VERDI REQUIEM CLOSES 31ST MENDOCINO FESTIVAL
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
We speak frequently about how there is nothing like the experience of a live performance. Seldom was this truer than at the July 22 closing performance of the two-week Mendocino Music Festival. The Festival Orchestra, conducted by of Allan Pollack, joined with the Festival Chorus in a moving renderi...
Recital
ORGAN REGISTRATION MASTERY HEARD IN WALHAIN'S RECITAL
by Robert Young
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
A group of 65 lucky attendees July 18 had the pleasure of hearing Etienne Walhain’s recital at the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa. Mr. Walhain is organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Tournai, Belgium, and played to a varied program Bach, Franck, and Reger. He used the tonal resource...
Opera
DONIZETTI'S DON PASQUALE HAS LYRICAL CHARM IN MENDOCINO FESTIVAL PRODUCTION
by Elly Lichenstein
Friday, July 14, 2017
Mendocino Music Festival's production of Donizetti's beloved opera buffa Don Pasquale - a one-night affair July 15 that was presented in an enormous tent on a greensward overlooking the Pacific Ocean - delighted an audience of more than 600 while doing some real justice to this frothy gem of commedi...
Recital
NOVACEK'S 2ND HALF TRIFECTA SCORES AT MENDO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 13, 2017
Modern classical piano recitals are in two parts, with longer and perhaps more profound music proceeding perhaps shorter and usually stimulating lighter fare. In John Novacek’s July 13 Mendocino Music Festival recital the best playing came unexpectedly in the eight abbreviated works comprising the ...
CHORAL AND VOCAL REVIEW

Composer Ron McFarland with pianists (left) Ava Soifer and Eliane Lust

MCFARLAND'S MUSIC FEATURED IN LAVISH MARIN CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 13, 2011

Even the most ardent classical music lover would be hard pressed to name a composer of stature that actually resides in the North Bay. Janis and Brian Wilson might be mentioned, and of course there are effervescent Charles Sepos and Healdsburg resident Charles Shere. And John Adams has a home north of Jenner. But for productivity spanning four decades, and manifold performances, only Marin composer Ron McFarland meets every qualification.

Friends of the Tiburon composer paid him homage Feb. 13 in a house concert featuring only Mr. McFarland’s music. A student of Schoenberg for composition and Leginska for piano, McFarland’s music is complicated structurally but uses conventional forms and a harmonic language that is frequently dense but almost always accessible.

Marin Symphony principal cellist Jan Volkert, launching the evening with a world premiere, gave a lithe and perky performance with pianist Ava Soifer of the Fantasy Variations for Cello and Piano. The work is graceful on the ear, distinctly different than the 12 Preludes for Piano played by San Francisco virtuoso Eliane Lust. Ms. Lust, a crusader for McFarland’s music, recently recorded the entire set of 24 Preludes, titled Les Hommages. Here the references, in blocks of two, were to Poulenc, Satie, Prokofiev, Gershwin, Liszt and Ravel. Getting all the sound possible from the small house instrument, Ms. Lust underscored the composer’s rhythmic vitality and sporadic playfulness at phrase endings. A more idiomatic performance can’t be imagined and the audience of 33 responded lustily.

Cal State East Bay faculty violinist Philip Santos continued the Valentine-themed tribute with powerful reading of the Violin Sonata, ably partnered by Ms. Soifer. This was perhaps the gnarliest work of the concert, much of the fiddle’s part placed in the high register and demanding a clean spiccato bow technique. Ms. Soifer made the most of the felicitous piano part, seldom chordal, and the balances were good in the small room. The violinist played the strident harmonies with strong accents and accurate intonation.

The final two works, a Serenade for Piano Trio and five songs for soprano and piano trio, were of recent vintage and displayed a more relaxed compositional outlook. The Serenade, from 2009, is a short work of 23 pages packed with melodic invention and mastery of the chamber music idiom. Everything was in its place – Mr. Santos’ elegant short trills in the andante cantabile, Ms. Volker’s piquant three-note pizzicatos in the concluding Allegro scherzando, and Ms. Soifer’s secure octave playing throughout. This fresh-minted piece needs the attention of our prominent resident trios – Trio Navarro, San Francisco Piano Trio and the Tilden Trio.

Soprano Sara Ganz joined the Trio for “Songs from The Book of Love,” preceded by a long instrumental prelude. Particularly fetching were “It Rains, Beloved” and “I See You Coming Toward Me,” taking advantage of Ms. Ganz’ nimble and magnetic vocal projection, identifying completely with these eclectic and polished songs. She was definitely the soloist, her voice frequently soaring above the ensemble with potent clarity.

Following words of thanks by the composer, concert host Bruce Wolfe served a terrific dinner featuring cuisine of India, with most of the dishes prepared in his kitchen.