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Chamber
PERFORMER AS PROMOTER: CLARA SCHUMANN AND MUSICAL SALONS CLOSE VOM FESTIVAL
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Sunday, July 28, 2019
The July 28 closing performance of the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival could have been subtitled "Friends", as it was devoted to works by both Clara and Robert Schumann, and those of their friends and protégés Brahms and virtuoso violinist Joseph Joachim, with whom Clara toured extensively...
Chamber
ROMANTIC CHAMBER WORKS HIGHLIGHT VOM FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, July 27, 2019
Now in its 5th season the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival presented July 27 a concert titled “My Brilliant Sister,” featuring Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel’s compositions for combinations of voice, fortepiano and strings. Fanny and her brother Felix were close, and Felix occasionally published ...
Symphony
ROMANTIC DREAMS AT THE MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kayleen Asbo
Wednesday, July 24, 2019
Romanticism, contrary to many popular perceptions, wasn’t simply about diving into the habitat of the heart. Romanticism began as a literary movement that elevated the power of nature as a transcendent force and sought with keen nostalgia to rediscover the wisdom of the past. The Romantics in both l...
Chamber
CHAUSSON CONCERTO SHINES IN A VISIONARY'S SALON
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, July 21, 2019
Ernest Chausson’s four-movement Concerto in D Major for Violin, Piano, and String Quartet (1891) is neither concerto nor sonata nor symphony, but it somehow manages to be all three, especially when played with fire and conviction by an accomplished soloist. Those incendiary and emotional elements w...
Chamber
EUROPEAN SALON MUSIC CAPTIVATES AT VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Sunday, July 21, 2019
Two stunning programs of 19th and 20th century chamber music were presented on July 21 and 28 as part of the Valley of the Moon Music Festival at the Hanna Center in Sonoma. Festival founders and directors pianist Eric Zivian and cellist Tanya Tompkins were both on hand to contribute brilliantly at ...
Chamber
ECLECTIC INSTRUMENTAL COMBINATIONS IN VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, July 20, 2019
A Lovely summer afternoon in Sonoma Valley, an excellent small concert hall, enthusiastic audience, exciting musicians and creative programming with interesting story lines. All these were combined July 20 at a Valley of the Moon Festival concert titled “An Italian in Paris.” This is the fifth seaso...
Opera
'ELIXIR' A WELCOME TONIC IN SPRIGHTLY ANNUAL MMF OPERA
by Terry McNeill
Friday, July 19, 2019
In most of the Mendocino Music Festival’s 33 seasons a single evening is given over to a staged opera, with bare bones sets, lighting, costumes, minimal cast and short length. No Wagner or Verdi here, no multiple acts and complicated production demands. Light and frothy are the usual, and so it wa...
Recital
PUNGENT WALTZES AND VIRTUOSITY IN LADEUR'S SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, July 17, 2019
San Francisco based pianist Jeffrey LaDeur has become one of the most sought-after North Bay virtuosi, and cemented that reputation July 17 in a short but eclectic recital in Santa Rosa’s Spring Lake Village Chamber Music Series. Before 140 in the Village’s auditorium Mr. LaDeur began with Schubert...
Choral and Vocal
NOBLE BRAHMS REQUIEM PERFORMANCE CLOSES SONOMA BACH'S SEASON
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, June 01, 2019
Sonoma Bach, conducted by Robert Worth, presented a truly grand finale to their 2018-19 "Light Out of Darkness" season in two sold out Schroeder Hall performances June 1 and 2. The program "A Human Requiem" was received rapturously with a well-deserved standing ovation for the main work, Brahms' ...
Chamber
THREE SONG CYCLES HIGHLIGHT VIBRANT SLV RECITAL
by Pamela Hicks-Gailey
Wednesday, May 08, 2019
An ambitious recital of vocal and piano music was presented May 8 at Santa Rosa’s Spring Lake Village by mezzo-soprano Kindra Scharich and pianist Jeffrey LaDeur. The duo engaged the enthusiastic audience with scholarly friendliness and artistry in performances of Beethoven's short cycle of six song...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Marin Symphony / Tuesday, November 08, 2011
Alasdair Neal, conductor.Monica Ohuchi, piano

Composer Kenji Bunch and Pianist Monica Ohuchi

FAMILY PIANO CONCERTO AND MAHLER'S FIRST SYMPHONY AT MARIN CONCERT NOV. 8

by John Metz
Tuesday, November 08, 2011

The Marin Symphony’s Nov. 8 concert in the Marin Center featured the West Coast premiere of Kenji Bunch’s new Piano Concerto. Mr. Bunch, a Portland native and Juilliard School graduate, describes the work as a true “family project,” as he wrote it for his wife Monica Ohuchi, the evening’s soloist.

Mr. Bunch is a composer for whom dogma holds no currency, as he writes with an eclecticism that unapologetically blends the styles of pop and classical music, revealing influences of rock, electronica, film music, and more. He’s even given to borrowing musical themes from 1970’s TV shows.

And indeed this new addition to the composer’s oeuvre is no exception. It begins with a rhythmic fabric woven by the winds, harp, percussion, and sustained strings, outlining lush harmonies suggestive of ambient electronica. The piano enters on an offbeat “blue note,” allowing Ms. Ohuchi to immediately draw us in, as she articulates a somber melody, rich in its jazz influence. Intensity builds in the development, which eventually leads to a recapitulation of the opening fabric, now with piano participating. This soon evolves into an inevitable grand climax, which, by the composer’s own admission, is “pure Hollywood,” though justified by the quirkiness of the music embedding it.

The slow movement features more colorful writing for the piano and winds. And the finale is a Brazilian dance, rife with bongos, maracas, and woodblocks. It is obvious this piece was written for Ohuchi, as it plays to all her strengths, particularly her rich and colorful tone quality. This is the second work of Bunch’s that conductor Alasdair Neale and Marin Symphony have championed, and it most certainly will not be the last.

After an adventurous opening half, the orchestra returned to familiar territory with a single work, Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 in D major. The opening scene unfolded slowly, with the strings holding a sustained A, while in the distance, offstage trumpet fanfares call forth. Birdcalls are repeated in the clarinet, which brings us to the main theme, played by the cellos. The movement built in intensity, moving from hunting horn calls, to eerie harp lines, and an eventual frenzied climax into which Mr. Neale and his orchestra poured forth all their energy.

The second movement begins with a Ländler, an Austrian peasant waltz, introduced by the horns. This pedestrian waltz is balanced by a noble and gentler waltz, appearing in the middle of the movement. Such juxtaposition of the noble and the grotesque, the sublime and the banal, is exactly what Mahler’s symphonies are all about. The slow movement, a funeral march based on a minor-key version of Frère Jacques, demands control and great sensitivity in performance, not to mention orchestral balance, but the latter was at times missing in this evening’s performance. The fourth movement is a storm featuring sweeping themes in the brass, which performed with skill but ultimately lacked potency.

At first glance, the evening’s two works are quite dissimilar. An epic Late Romantic tour de force of a symphony pitted against a quirky, offbeat, and even “poppy” piano concerto. But just as Mahler blended the common and the noble, so too does Mr. Bunch blend the popular and the classical. And both with great results.