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Choral and Vocal
A SEASONAL MESSIAH WITH BALANCE AND HEFT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 10, 2017
The mid-December concert season seems for jaded reviewers to invariably include a Messiah performance, and perhaps a Messiah in a long string of similar and mundane performances. This was decidedly not the case when San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque mounted Handel’s eminent three-part 1742 Orato...
Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony concert featured two elegant and refined guests: music director candidate Andrew Grams and pianist Stewart Goodyear. Both displayed dazzling technique and consummate artistry, but Goodyear was the more consistent of the two. Some of Grams’ inconsistency may have st...
Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
Chamber
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the ...
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