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Recital
HOME RECITAL BACH COMPLETES HOLIDAY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 30, 2017
The just closing 2017 year was a calamity for many, but locally in music there were joys galore, and it was fitting Dec. 30 have the balm of two Bach’s violin sonatas in a private Guerneville home recital hosted by the eminent musician Sonia Tubridy. Violinist Richard Heinberg joined Ms. Tubridy in...
Choral and Vocal
A SEASONAL MESSIAH WITH BALANCE AND HEFT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 10, 2017
The mid-December concert season seems for jaded reviewers to invariably include a Messiah performance, and perhaps a Messiah in a long string of similar and mundane performances. This was decidedly not the case when San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque mounted Handel’s eminent three-part 1742 Orato...
Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE WITH SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony concert featured two elegant and refined guests: music director candidate Andrew Grams and pianist Stewart Goodyear. Both displayed dazzling technique and consummate artistry, but Goodyear was the more consistent of the two. Some of Grams’ inconsistency may have st...
Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
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.