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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, January 22, 2013

ARMSTRONG'S BRUCH CONCERTO TRIUMPHS IN MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT

by John Metz
Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A concert entitled “Romantic Passions” promises a big orchestra, epic works, sweeping melodies, emotional excess, and the spirit of heroism. The Marin Symphony delivered on this promise January 22 in a Marin Center Auditorium winter season gala.

Two works of Russian Romanticism framed the program, beginning with Glinka’s Overture to Ruslan and Ludmilla and ending with Tchaikovsky’s consummate “Pathétique” Symphony in B Minor, Op. 74. And while the centerpiece of the program, Bruch’s Violin Concerto in G minor, was not Russian, the evening’s soloist from Sonoma had reached international acclaim as the fourth prizewinner in the most recent International Tchaikovsky Competition. Violinist Nigel Armstrong was without a doubt the center of attention in the hall.

Mr. Armstrong brought remarkable skills to the Bruch: a rich and colorful tone quality, flawless intonation, virtuosic flair, a commanding stage presence and delicate sensitivity when the music required it. Double stops of thirds and octaves abound in the concerto and Mr. Armstrong plays these with such ease and clarity that, if you weren’t watching, you might think two violinists were playing.

The pathos of the opening Vorspiel (Prelude) exhibits the composer’s undeniable gift for melody and in Mr. Armstrong’s hands the dramatic themes and sweeping lines flowed naturally and effortlessly. In the intimate second movement the violinist’s delicate and heartfelt pianissimos drew in the attention of the audience. Following the heroic finale, which despite its technical challenges was a breeze for Mr. Armstrong, the audience offered a standing ovation. And it wasn’t just the audience who was enthralled with the artist; he had clearly won the admiration of the orchestra members.

The audience wanted more and received an encore of Ysaÿe's G Major Rustic Dance from his Fifth Solo Sonata. This was a magical performance and the rhythmic opening had a crispness that only few violinists achieve. The more nuanced middle section was an exploration of the possibilities of the violin and the violinist. For Mr. Armstrong, the possibilities are endless and we could have listened to him all night.

The program’s opener, the Overture to Ruslan and Ludmilla, contained more impressive string section playing with lightning fast passagework in the violins. Conductor Alasdair Neale took a brisk tempo for this work and the orchestra was up to the task.

The epic Pathétique Symphony is fifty minutes in length with the first movement alone twenty minutes long. After hearing a transcendent performance of the Bruch violin concerto, the audience’s expectations had risen. No, we couldn’t expect the Symphony to wow us in the same way that Nigel Armstrong had, but we knew we were in store for something special, and this was a gripping and well-executed performance of a quintessential piece. But in the context of the entire program, it was a mere afterthought to Mr. Armstrong’s playing of Bruch’ melancholic masterpiece.