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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...
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