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Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
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 they seem to be on almost ever...
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 REVIEW
Sonoma Classical Music Society / Saturday, January 05, 2013
Nigel Armstrong, violin. Elizabeth Dorman, piano

Nigel Armstrong and Elizabeth Dorman Jan. 5

NATIVE VIRTUOSITY

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 05, 2013

Violinist Nigel Armstrong is becoming a virtuoso staple for North Bay concerts, having played locally over the past three years in private homes, with symphonic groups and in several formal recitals. January 5 found him giving a benefit recital for the Sonoma Classical Music Society in his Sonoma hometown in the west side Kenny residence. It was an exceptional afternoon of music making.

With pianist Elizabeth Dorman, Mr. Armstrong opened with Beethoven’s Romance in G Major, a 10-minute work usually heard with orchestra. The piano reduction worked well, and Ms. Dorman was attentive to the soloist’s suave melodic line, carefully matching a lovely ascending and descending violin line at the midpoint.

The afternoon’s chief work was Schumann’s A Minor Sonata, Op. 105, a surging romantic piece from 1851 that Mr. Armstrong was playing for the first time in public. The warm partnership of the Beethoven Romance continued throughout this restless Sonata. The many modulations in the opening movement (“with passionate expression”) were deftly highlighted by the violinist, and his vibrato was wide and often pulsating. The short intermezzo was well played, ending in a soft series of pizzicato violin notes coupled with expressive, almost somber chords from the piano. Schumann’s restless energy burst forth in the finale. The duo performed the sudden dynamic contrasts pungently, and the rush to a tragic end moved the audience of 50 to loud applause.

Two movements from Bach’s solo Third Sonata (BWV 1005) began the second half. Mr. Armstrong played the opening Adagio soulfully and the long three-part fugue masterfully. A Bach work for solo piano came next, the popular B Flat Partita (BWV 825) with seven brief movements. Ms. Dorman’s committed playing was often too loud, and in the flowing first movement arabesques her rhythms were unstable. She does enjoy extravagant ornamentation on repeats but has yet to acquire much color in her playing.

Ending the recital were Brahms’ Hungarian Dances Four and Five in the Joachim arrangements. Every bit of these virtuosic and gypsy-like compositions was played with soaring vitality by Mr. Armstrong. He often leaned down to his pianist to underscore a phase, beginning with a nod or a wave of his fleet bow tip. The double and sporadic triple stops were faultless.

As an encore treat for violin buffs, Mr. Armstrong played Ernst’s “Variations on The Last Rose of Summer,” the sixth of his Polyphonic Etudes from the 1860s. Curiously, the final two variations and finale were omitted. But no matter, what Mr. Armstrong played was coin of the fiddler’s realm and uniquely thrilling.

The Sonoma Classical Music Society’s spring season of three more concerts can be seen at www.sonomaclassical.org.

Bronislaw Irving contributed to this review