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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, February 13, 2016
Musicians from the Valley of the Moon Festival: Christine Brandes, soprano; Tanya Tomkins, cello; Axel Strauss, violin; Eric Zivian, fortepiano. Additional musicians TBA

Soprano Christine Brandes

ELEGANT VAL MOON SCHUBERTIADE IN SCHROEDER

by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, February 13, 2016

Musicians from Valley of the Moon Music Festival presented their third Spring concert Feb. 13 in Schroeder. This group focuses on music of Classical and Romantic composers played on historic instruments.

The 1841 fortepiano played by Eric Zivian has an all-wooden frame and shorter strings than a modern concert piano, and it’s light articulate sound blends easily with string instruments. Cellist Tanya Tomkins spoke of a Schubertiade. an all Schubert concert modeled on intimate and casual musical gatherings of Schubert and his friends. Schubert’s inspiration was often drawn from artists, writers and poets in his circle, and Ms. Tomkins commented that Schroeder Hall is the group's favorite venue for chamber music.

Violinist Axel Strauss and Mr. Zivian opened the concert with the D Major Sonatina, the reading replete with eloquent simplicity that carried with it deep emotional undercurrents. Lovely nuanced playing made much of the minimal material. Mr. Strauss's tone was sweet and expressive, the moods shifting with the tone colors and use of the two instruments. The second movement was classically elegant and the third gave a frolic, instrumental lines nimbly alternating, in which big dramatic moments led back to lightness and joy.

A set of Schubert lieder followed, sung by soprano Christine Brandes with Mr. Zivian. Schubert's lieder are among his greatest achievements, and he revolutionized the song form and drew upon the great poetry of his time, with instrumental advances offering a broader palate than the ABA form bucolic songs and arias that dominated the scene before his writing. Ms. Brandes’ set included "Geheimes" and "Lachen und weinen" from Selected Lieder, followed by four from Schwanengesang: "Liebesbotschaft", happy and bubbly; "Ihr Bild" with its emotional swings; the devastating "Der Doppelgänger" (the Ghostly Double); and "Die Tauberpost". These songs gave images and emotions in a variety of moods portrayed masterfully in voice, and the piano part is no mere accompaniment in Schubert songs.

The golden voice of Ms. Brandes filled Schroeder Hall in every dynamic range and her dramatic face and body enhanced understanding of the texts and music. Standing alone in this world of lieder, "Der Erlkonig" (the Erl King) ended the set. Here Mr. Zivian created a mood of terror in the galloping sinister theme and Ms. Brandes sustained the mood, portraying the four characters: The dying child and father on the galloping steed, the narrator and Death. This was a memorable interpretation of a terrifying musical horror story.

After a short intermission Ms. Brandes, Mr. Zivian and Mr. Strauss were joined by Ms. Tomkins, violist Elizabeth Blumenstock, and bassist Michel Taddei. Ms. Brandes first sang Die Forrelle with it's glittering piano accompaniment evoking water, light sparkling and trout life in the stream. The beloved Trout Quintet has a variation movement based on this lied, and here the playing was filled with sound painting and musical drama. The first movement of the Trout Quintet (Op. 114) opens with a glorious A major arpeggio in the piano and this accomplished ensemble carried that energy through the movement with an engaged and energetic interpretation, using accents effectively as bursts of color. The double bass was beautifully played throughout and the fortepiano never covered the strings.

The Andante was a delight with lovely transparent playing, and especially pleasing was the cello/viola duo and the trading of themes between piano and violin. The quiet sections were like whispers caught on a breeze. The Scherzo was played with excellent ensemble, nothing forced or harsh in the foot stomping revelry, with gentle echoes and bell-like piano motifs.

The fourth movement has the "Forelle" theme followed by captivating variations for all the instruments. These variations depict the trout's struggle for survival, some joyful, others darkly dramatic. The fifth-movement finale starts with a unison call and cavorts through march-like motives and dance figures, sometimes bold, other times gentle, until a final effective gallop carries the piece to its conclusion. The audience immediately rose for a standing ovation.

Nicki Bell contributed to this review