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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
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.