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Chamber
KODALY DUO TRUMPS POPULAR MENDELSSOHN TRIO AT SLV CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 21, 2017
It’s not really a secret, but Sonoma County’s best chamber music series is one without much notoriety or publicity. The concerts at Santa Rosa’s Spring Lake Village programs are only for residents and a few invited guests. Impresario Robert Hayden years ago honed his producer skills as founder of ...
Recital
DEMANDING VIOLIN SONATAS CONQUERED BY BEILMAN-WEISS DUO IN SCHROEDER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, May 14, 2017
Violinist Benjamin Beilman’s ravishing Mozart performance at last summer’s Weill Hall ChamberFest finale lured an enthusiastic crowd to Schroeder Hall May 14 to hear if his secure virtuosity was up to a program of demanding sonatas. He did not disappoint. With the powerful pianist Orion Weiss in t...
Symphony
SOVIETS INVADE WEILL HALL, TAKE NO PRISONERS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 07, 2017
Bruno Ferrandis may be French, but he excels in Soviet repertoire. His Slavonic expertise was more than amply demonstrated at the Santa Rosa Symphony’s May 7 concert, where the program began joyfully with Khachaturian’s ballet suite from “Masquerade,” surged forward with Prokofiev’s second violin co...
Recital
MASTERFUL PIANISM IN GOODE'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, May 05, 2017
Pianist Richard Goode programmed an evening of treasures May 5 from four great composers, and is an artist of intimacy and intelligence, power and passion, able to go deep and to soar. Hearing Mr. Goode play this literature was a reminder of how music does indeed bridge worlds and time. Bach’s E m...
Recital
ELEGANT ORGAN SALUTE TO THE REFORMATION
by Paul Blanchard
Sunday, April 30, 2017
Organist Jonathan Dimmock presented an April 30 recital in homage to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, playing Schroeder Hall’s wonderful Brombaugh instrument. Mr. Dimmock is the organist for the San Francisco Symphony, principal organist for the Palace of the Legion of Honor and teaches at...
Chamber
NOTES AND BARS DO NOT A PRISON MAKE
by Nicki Bell
Saturday, April 29, 2017
The Hermitage Piano Trio brought exuberant musicality and sumptuous sound to a packed house April 29 in Occidental's Performing Arts Center for the last concert in the Redwood Arts Council’s 37th season. With a wide interpretive range--from lush to delicate to passionate--these three young Russian v...
Recital
SCHUMANN AND BARTOK HIGHLIGHT BRONFMAN RECITAL IN WEILL
by Lee Ormasa
Friday, April 21, 2017
Those people once addicted to the “Angry Birds” game application likely suffered an auditory flashback during the opening measures of the allegro from Bartok’s Suite, Op. 14, the opening work in Yefim Bronfman’s April 21 recital at Weill Hall. The repetitive opening figures of the Bartok were...
Symphony
HULKING MAHLER "TITAN" AT SO CO PHIL'S SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 08, 2017
A composer’s first symphony rarely gives a clear indication of what beautiful complexities will follow over the years. Early Mozart and Tchaikovsky are examples, and the big exceptions to this axiom are the “firsts” of Beethoven, Shostakovich and Mahler. Tackling Mahler ‘s D Major Symphony (No. 1,...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY STAYS CLOSE TO HOME
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 26, 2017
Santa Rosa Symphony concerts usually feature high-powered soloists imported from afar, but for their recent “Bring on the Strings” concert set, they stuck close to home, thrusting their principal violin, viola and cello into the limelight. The violinist (Joseph Edelberg) and the violist (Elizabeth P...
Recital
SLAM BANG SONORITY IN HAOCHEN ZHANG'S SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 19, 2017
Piano Competition winners are in ample supply, and it’s often a hit and miss proposition as to their sterling interpretative qualities. However, the quadrennial Van Cliburn Competition in Ft. Worth has continually produced top-level artists, and the 2009 winner Haochen Zhang proved a formidable per...
OPERA REVIEW
Tiburon Music Festival / Saturday, June 21, 2008
Two from Tiburon

Linda Noble Brown

OPERA DOUBLE BILL IN TIBURON

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, June 21, 2008

Launching a fledgling music festival with two contemporary chamber operas is a little unusual, but the opening Tiburon Music Festival concert June 21 was a successful if not quite memorable event. Before 100 people in Tiburon's classy St. Hilary Church's Parish Hall, operas by Marin-based composers Ron McFarland and Vincent Stadlin were given, the latter a world premiere, with a repeat performance June 27 at 7:30 p.m. The Festival, directed by College of Marin faculty member Paul Smith, will feature five additional events, all at St. Hilary, and ending June 28.

Though written in 1968, Mr. Stadlin's opera Erik, never been mounted prior to the Festival, is a tight 35-minute exploration of the relationship of a wealthy and emotionally-constrained mother (Marin soprano Linda Noble Brown) with her son, soon to be sent to Vietnam. Singing the role of Erik was Stefan Schermerhorn, with Michael Crozier the long-abandoned, or abandoning, husband. The opera works well on a dramatic scale, though placing much of Ms. Brown's vocal line in an uncomfortable high tessitura, and frequently covered by Mr. Smith's energetic piano part. There is conflict at every turn in both acts, underscoring the mostly tonal harmonic language. Ms. Brown's voice was most comfortable in the lower registers where her fetching pianissimo and adroit phrasing carried well. The duet ending Act 1, where mother and son finally find common ground, was telling. As an orchestra of one, Mr. Smith at the piano impressively delivered the score in near darkness, indeed a feat of sight reading.

The composer, currently Music Director at St. Hilary, clearly has a strong command of theater, and one looks to future presentations of his more recent work. He was greeted with loud applause at the conclusion, with Ms. Brown receiving a diva's accolade.

Arguably Marin's best-known active composer, Ron McFarland's Tamson Donner is a reduced version of his full-length opera The Donner Party, and as in Erik, just a few vocal parts have prominence. Here, with stage orchestra of two violins, flute, clarinet and Mr. Smith's commanding piano and conducting, the dramatic range is limited but persuasive. A ten-person chorus is mute much of the time, standing silently as 'trees' in the snow-bound Sierra Nevada, where the Donner expedition is marooned and where some will perish. The role of Tamson Donner was well sung by soprano Carole Klein, tending to her exhausted husband (Boyd Jarrell) and her daughters, the latter departing for safety before the violence of the storm wrecks death and cannibalism. Thematic interplay and dissonant harmonies were contrasted with the principal's lushly romantic duet with about family, and an equally-assured threnody delicately sung by Ms. Klein, over arpeggios in the piano part, as her spouse succumbs to the cold. The composer has packed a lot into just 40 minutes, and the balance between the orchestra and singing was artful. Entrances for the orchestra were frequently ragged, understandable given the difficult sightlines to Mr. Smiths conducting from the piano at stage right. Wendy Hindley's flute solos were captivating.

Recently Mr. McFarland's music was on display at a San Francisco gala, highlighting his chamber music, songs and piano preludes, and thus it was fitting in his hometown area for this 'pocket' opera to have exposure. He is a Marin treasure, a worthy colleague to Bay area composers Wayne Peterson and Roger Nixon, all enriching our musical experience.

Both operas were the product of Contemporary Opera Marin, associated with College of Marin, with a history of producing more than 50 operas and 30 premieres. Additional information regarding the Festival is at www.tiburonmusicfestival.org and (415) 457-5226. Mention must be made of the excellent acoustics of the hall and the gratis hors d'ouvres, combining with the music to fashion a beguiling place for intimate opera. This is a Festival which should become an annual Marin event.