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Recital
SLAM BANG SONORITY IN HAOCHEN ZHANG'S SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 19, 2017
Piano Competition winners are in ample supply, and it’s often a hit and miss proposition as to their sterling interpretative qualities. However, the quadrennial Van Cliburn Competition in Ft. Worth has continually produced top-level artists, and the 2009 winner Haochen Zhang proved a formidable per...
Symphony
FOREIGN AFFAIRS CHARACTERS OF THE BAROQUE
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, known as Akamus, played a Weill Hall concert March 12 in a program called "Foreign Affairs -Characters of the Baroque.” The ensemble, that began in 1984, has 15 musicians led by concert master Bernhard Forck. Attired in elegant black with red accents, ranging from tie...
Recital
MUSCULAR PIANISM DOMINATES MILL VALLEY CHAMBER SOCIETY RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Piano recitals since the beginning of the genre open with finger pieces - Scarlatti or Soler Sonatas, Bach, a Mendelssohn Prelude and Fugue or perhaps Mozart or Haydn. Sarah Daneshpour’s March 12 opening work at the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society series abruptly avoided the norm with the 10-minut...
Recital
NOVEL HAYDN AND SCHUMANN IN YARDEN'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, March 09, 2017
Israeli pianist Einav Yarden has been a frequent Sonoma County visitor, playing private recitals for Spring Lake Village and Concerts Grand, and twice performing for Music at Oakmont. The Berlin-based artist returned to Oakmont’s Berger Auditorium March 9 with a program that was neither for connois...
Chamber
CONSUMMATE ENSEMBLE FROM THE MIRÓ IN WEILL
by Sonia Tubridy and Nicki Bell
Sunday, March 05, 2017
A March 5 Weill hall audience of 350 leaned in to share an intimate musical space and to hear the Miró String Quartet’s sterling concert. Starting with Haydn's Op. 20, No. 4, the four musicians seemed to want listeners to be enveloped in their music. The Miró plays with the feat of being four dist...
Recital
BRILLIANT VIOLIN AND PIANO ARTISTRY CHARMS SCHROEDER HALL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 26, 2017
A tiny Schroeder Hall audience heard a flawless recital Feb. 26 by Yu-Chien Tseng, arguably the best recent local violin recital since Gil Shaham’s transversal of the complete Bach Suites in Weill and Frank Almond’s Oakmont recital in 2015. Muscular playing was the afternoon’s norm, and with pianis...
Chamber
MUSIC AND ART MELD IN ZUCKERMAN TRIO CONCERT
by Nicki Bell
Friday, February 24, 2017
A Feb. 24 Weill Hall concert by the Pinchas Zuckerman Trio juxtaposed formidable music making with palpable associations about visual art. Brahms’ C Minor "Sonatensatz” (Scherzo) is a short youthful work for violin and piano, and was an opening call to action. Lively and vigorous playing alternated...
Chamber
THREE BEETHOVEN TRIOS BEGUILE AUDIENCE IN FEB. 19 WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Chamber music concerts featuring one composer can be tricky, but the Han/Setzer/Finckel trio made a Feb. 19 Weill Hall audience of 500 hear and to a degree see the boundless creativity of Beethoven. The G Major Trio, Op. 1, No. 2, opened the afternoon’s Beethoven odyssey and one wonders why it is t...
Chamber
AUTHORITATIVE BARTOK HIGHLIGHTS TETZLAFF VIOLIN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 18, 2017
Christian Tetzlaff’s Feb. 18 violin recital rolled along with lively and fresh readings of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert when the specter of Bartok’s granitic Second Sonata intervened. The sonic shock to the audience of 250 in Weill was palpable. Composed in 1923 the 20-minute two-movement work i...
Symphony
WHAT SOUND DO STAR-CROSSED LOVERS MAKE?
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 12, 2017
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, so the Santa Rosa Symphony feted the occasion by telling and retelling the story of Romeo and Juliet, a tale ever the more poignant during our era of stark divisions. The first telling was from Berlioz; the second from Prokofiev. In between was Brahms’ monu...
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.