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Symphony
CONDUCTOR PLAYOFFS BEGIN IN SANTA ROSA
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 08, 2017
The Santa Rosa Symphony is calling 2017-18 “a choice season” because the next few months offer the audience and the symphony’s board of directors a chance to choose a new conductor from a pool of five candidates. Each candidate will lead a three-concert weekend set this fall and winter, with a final...
Symphony
DVORAK AND TCHAIKOVSKY ORCHESTRAL COLOR AT SO CO PHIL SEASON OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 30, 2017
A concert with curious repertoire and splashy orchestral color launched the 19th season of the Sonoma County Philharmonic Sept. 30 in Santa Rosa High School’s Auditorium. Why curious? Conductor Norman Gamboa paired the ever-popular Dvorak and his rarely heard 1891 trilogy In Nature’s Realm, with t...
Recital
ELEGANT PIANISM IN WATER MUSIC CHARMS HOUSE RECITAL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 03, 2017
A standard component of house concerts often involve listeners hearing the music but also smelling the lasagna and seeing the champagne in the adjacent kitchen. But it was not the case Sept. 3 at Sandra Shen’s Concerts Grand House Recital performance, as her riveting piano playing enthralled the sm...
Chamber
YOUNG MUSICIANS SHINE AT PIANO SONOMA CONCERT
by Lee Ormasa
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
The third in a series of four concerts by Piano Sonoma artists in residence, part of the Vino and Vibrato Series, was held August 1 in Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center. Entitled “The Masters,” the program included works by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. Piano Sonoma is a summer artist-in...
Chamber
THRILLING PROGRAM CLOSES VOM CHAMBER FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, July 30, 2017
The finale of the two-week Valley of the Moon Music Festival closed July 30 with “The Age of Bravura” concert at the Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. The musical selections held to this year’s Festival theme “Schumann’s World - His Music and the Music He Loved.“ This summer Festival features chamber mus...
Chamber
PERIOD INSTRUMENTAL SOUND AT PENULTIMATE VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 30, 2017
In the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival’s penultimate concert July 30 the perennial issue of period and modern instruments was apparent. But only in the concluding Mendelssohn Trio, as the performances in the two first half works easily avoided instrumental comparisons. Clara Schumann’s t...
Chamber
ECLECTIC REPERTOIRE IN FETCHING VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 22, 2017
One of the purposes of summer music festivals is to present unfamiliar music in an attractive and often small audience setting. The Valley of the Moon Music Festival delightfully met these requirements July 22 and 23 with two concerts in the small hall at Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. Classical Sono...
Recital
ADAMS' PHRYGIAN GATES HIGHLIGHTS MORKOSKI FESTIVAL PERFORMANCE
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Attendees at the Molly Morkoski Mendocino Music Festival recital July 22 were in for a treat, both pianistically and if they happened to buy a tasty cookie during intermission. The program included Beethoven’s Op. 27 Moonlight Sonata, Adams’ Phrygian Gates, a surprise add-on of Grieg’s Holberg Suit...
Symphony
SOARING VERDI REQUIEM CLOSES 31ST MENDOCINO FESTIVAL
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
We speak frequently about how there is nothing like the experience of a live performance. Seldom was this truer than at the July 22 closing performance of the two-week Mendocino Music Festival. The Festival Orchestra, conducted by of Allan Pollack, joined with the Festival Chorus in a moving renderi...
Recital
ORGAN REGISTRATION MASTERY HEARD IN WALHAIN'S RECITAL
by Robert Young
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
A group of 65 lucky attendees July 18 had the pleasure of hearing Etienne Walhain’s recital at the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa. Mr. Walhain is organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Tournai, Belgium, and played to a varied program Bach, Franck, and Reger. He used the tonal resource...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Napa Valley Music Associates / Sunday, January 11, 2015
Jassen Todorov, violin; Anna Combs Johnson, soprano; Kenn Gartner and Adrian Borcea, piano

Violinist Jassen Todorov

MOZART IN THE MIX

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 11, 2015

Napa Valley Music Associates 20th annual Mozart concert Jan. 11 was a mostly Mozart event at the Jamieson Ranch Vineyards, but five mostly romantic composers happily joined the musical mix.

Jassen Todorov was the featured violinist in two Sonatas, the F Major (K. 377) and the B Flat (K. 378), partnered with pianist Adrian Borcea. The acoustics of the winery party room were dead and the duo adopted a muscular approach to the overflowing energy of the K. 377 Allegro, the piano at times covering the violin’s sound. The best playing came in the D Minor Variations movement (Andante) where the violinist’s intonation settled down and the music moved from gloomy resignation to lyricism, with a lovely lightweight ending.

The finale was inspired and seemed to quietly vanish into the distance at the end. Throughout the concert the sub professional piano limited artistic playing from Mr. Borcea and subsequently Kenn Gartner, but on balance the Mozart was an adroit if not a telling performance.

Not hindered by the accompanying instrument was soprano Anna Combs Johnson, singing four works by Verdi and Rachmaninoff. From the opera Othello she sang a deliberate and shapely “Ave Maria,” followed by the sad “Salce, salce” (Desdemona’s “Willow’s Song”) with Mr. Gartner support and beguiling postlude. Her voice is even and strong throughout all registers, carrying well with judicious and intense high notes in Rachmaninoff’s “It Is Nice Here.” The popular “Vocalise” (from a group of Op. 34 songs) is performed without words and with one vowel of the singer’s choosing. Here the piano and vocal lines intertwined to fine effect, the music producing a serene blessing on the 75 listeners.

Closing the first half were four disparate piano nocturnes, each well known but each less than refined due to Mr. Gartner’s struggle with the piano. In Chopin’s E Flat Nocturne of Op. 9 he never found a stable tempo and Liszt’s Liebesträume suffered from memory lapses and lack of harmonic sustain. The concluding Scriabin Nocturne for the Left Hand (Op.9) and Respighi’s mellow Notturno were better, the latter a signature piece for the pianist and played with a soothing right-hand staccato and deft phrasing.

In Mozart’s B Flat sonata Mr. Todorov found a lighter bow and relaxed virtuosity that was not always in evidence earlier. He focused on the beguiling three-part melody of the Andantino, reminiscent of the church song “Fairest Lord Jesus, Ruler of All Nature,” and played with a wider vibrato and control of pianissimo. Mr. Borcea had plenty to do with the many right-hand scale passages in the Allegro, attempting to get an even legato from the instrument that seldom provided it.

Two lovely Mozart works closed the concert, “Porgi Amor” from the opera “The Marriage of Figaro,” and a reduction for piano and soprano of the wonderful “Alleluja” from Exultate Jubilate, K. 165. In the prayerful “Figaro” aria Ms. Combs was never strident and allowed the long phrases to unfold naturally. She has a penchant for this vocal drama where (in the opera) Countess Rosina laments fate and love. Quite the opposite was the lofty tessitura of Mozart’s florid three-minute Alleluja, sung with charm and joy.

A standing ovation ensued, a harbinger of the anticipated NV Music Associates “Spring Into Strings”
Concert March 22 in the same hall.