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Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now it seems to be on almost every...
Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the season’s final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church, as the performers...
Chamber
TRIO NAVARRO'S POPULAR FARE IN SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 08, 2018
Long time Classical Sonoma readers may recall many Trio Navarro concert reviews that lauded their virtuosity and interest in rarely played repertoire. The April 8 concert in Schroeder Hall before 85 chamber music fans featured sterling performances but had a mostly conservative menu of popular trio...
Recital
KENNER'S ALL POLISH RECITAL HAS PADEREWSKI RARITY
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, April 08, 2018
Kevin Kenner’s April 8 recital at Dominican University’s Angelico Hall had been advertised as all-Chopin, but he added a detour into another seminal Polish composer-pianist, Paderewski. Several of Mr. Kenner’s teachers were Poles, he speaks Polish, and he navigated at the piano both composers’ deman...
Symphony
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE VOICE AT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, April 08, 2018
In an April 8 Santa Rosa Symphony concert filled to the brim with instruments--electric violin, vibraphone, marimba, xylophone, glockenspiel, keyboard samplers, harps, piano and myriad drums, gongs and bells, to say nothing of winds, brass and strings--the instrument that came out on top was the hum...
Chamber
VOM FESTIVAL TRIO CHARMS WITH CHAMBER MIX, AND HUMMEL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, March 31, 2018
At the core of the group of Valley of the Moon Music Festival (VOM) musicians is an ensemble of trios and duos, and as a trio March 31 Festival founders cellist Tanya Tomkins and pianist Eric Zivian joined British violinist Monica Huggett for a chamber music concert in the Green Music Center’s Schro...
Choral and Vocal
GOOD FRIDAY REQUIEM FILLS INCARNATION
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 30, 2018
Maurice Duruflé’s short and intense Requiem has been heard in Santa Rosa’s Church of the Incarnation before, but the March 30 Good Friday performance was stripped down in the number of performers, combining Cantiamo Sonoma and the St. Cecilia Choir with musical underpinning from organist Robert Youn...
Symphony
HAMELIN'S HUSKY MOOD IN SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 25, 2018
Convention in piano recitals has the artist coming on stage and playing. Canadian pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin walked on Schroeder Hall’s stage March 25 and didn’t play for six minutes, chatting with the audience. A risk for some artists. Then most programs include a contemporary or rarely play...
Recital
VIRTUOSIC VARIATIONS IN MORGAN'S SCHROEDER ORGAN RECITAL
by Paul Blanchard
Sunday, March 18, 2018
Organist Robert Huw Morgan’s artistry spun through the web of early variation form in a Mar. 18 recital on Schroeder Hall’s wonderful Brombaugh organ. Mr. Morgan, Stanford University’s resident organist, performs a wide range of repertoire, but as he said in comments to the audience, he loves when h...
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.