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Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s Sonoma Overt...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
Chamber
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, perfor...
Symphony
AMERICAN CLASSICS SPARKLE UNDER KAHANE’S BATON
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Jeffrey Kahane, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s former conductor, returned to the Weill Hall podium on Saturday night, and the results were expectedly wonderful. The concert of American classics was by turns playful (Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”), emotional (Barber’s violin concerto) and triumphant (...
Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
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.