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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
Green Music Center / Saturday, January 30, 2016
Valley of the Moon Festival Musicians: Monica Huggett, violin; Tanya Tomkins, cello; Eric Vivian, fortepiano; Jodi Levitz, viola

Monica Huggett, Eric Zivian, Tanya Tomkins

SCHUMANN'S INTIMATE CONVERSATIONS IN SCHROEDER

by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, January 30, 2016

An ensemble of five outstanding musicians from Valley of the Moon Music Festival presented Jan. 30 a program "Schumann The Intimate Conversationalist" program to a rapt and delighted audience in Schroeder Hall.

On entering the hall there was on stage the sight of an exquisite Viennese fortepiano built in 1841. This instrument differs from a modern piano in many ways, including very little metal in its construction. The action and tone are lighter and the result is an instrument that blends wonderfully with string instruments. Cellist Tanya Tomkins and violist Jodi Levitz conversed with each other and the audience before the musical presentation, and they stated that Schumann wrote “music for the piano looms large" and "first radiance of new genius is found at the keyboard.” They explained that the three pieces on the program: Kinderszenen (1838), Trio in G Minor (1847) and Quintet, Opus 44 (1842) were written within ten years of the building of this piano and that this concert represented three aspects of Schumann's manifold compositional style.

Kinderszenen (Scenes of Childhood), a much beloved set of thirteen miniature poetic character pieces, were performed by pianist Eric Zivian. He played with fine expressiveness and intelligence, shaping each piece with subtle dynamics and great clarity. The gentle lyrical tone of this instrument that does not rely on power intensified the performance, the intimate conversation between composer and pianist reaching out to engaged listeners.

Ms.Tomkins and violinist Monica Huggett joined Mr. Zivian for the G Minor Trio. The violin and cello used gut strings and all instruments blended well with little vibrato use. This Trio heralds new compositional styles heading towards the 20th century with a spontaneous improvisatory feel replacing organized development of ideas. The first movement introduced an unusual trio sound in which the individual contrasting colors of the parts available with modern instruments were replaced by a communal blended sound based on the ideal in early music ensembles. One striking change was the subdued role of the piano in the ensemble, sometimes actually covered by the violin and cello. In this movement, surges of upward waves of sound in the piano supported passionate outbursts and singing string lines. The sound seems to emerge from a deep emotional place, almost diabolical at times, and with many small surprising gestures.

The second movement is a unique love duet filled with almost unbearable longing, the piano adding touches of bright highlights and filling in emotional moments in this conversation. A middle section was reminiscent of ominous realities before returning to the poignant love duet, ending with a musical sigh. Clara Schumann is said to have especially loved this trio and this afternoon’s performers were deeply engaged.

The short third movement features harmonically strange piano passages with the many long pedal markings working well on the fortepiano. A wild joyful tarantella balances the spooky outer sections which lead to the fourth movement marked Kraftig mit (humor). This last movement has a bit of everything: foot stomping folk vigor, lyrical cello passages turning the music sentimental, a vibrant march section and more. New ideas emerge and then disappear into familiar themes with new variations. The trio ends with bright optimism and the audience applauded enthusiastically.

After an intermission the musicians returned with violinist Carla Moore and Ms.Levitz for the Quintet in E Flat, one of the greatest in this genre. It took some adjusting to the lighter sound of this ensemble, in which the grand piano sounds usually heard were often in the background. The joy and exuberance of the first movement's opening were interrupted by contemplative and thoughtful piano statements with delightful amounts of rubato. There were the beloved cello/viola duos and a new take on the dark development section with strong string chords leading and piano passages a background rumble.

The second movement with it's solemn, staggering march led through different moods to the wild and furious episode in which an astonishingly intense viola rendition of the main theme leads back to quiet and peace. The Scherzo was taken at a breathtaking tempo with exuberance and power in which the viola part was once again an exciting driving force. The last movement was a demonstration of the new kind of beauty to be heard when the piano is not the main part but often a quiet and more bell-like presence. There was much charm in the trading of melodies and the brisk tempo gave great broad gestures to this grand finale.

Applause was plentiful for this fresh, enlightening and moving experience of Schumann's genius and humanity.

Nicki Bell contributed to this review.