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Symphony
MENDELSSOHN'S SCOTTISH SAVES THE EVENING IN SRS WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Monday, February 11, 2019
The audience entering Weill Hall for Santa Rosa Symphony concerts Feb. 9-11 were presented with a program that on first glance appeared a curious patchwork – a great symphony mixed with a seldom heard concerto and two disparate overtures, and a guest conductor unknown locally. Monday night’s concer...
Recital
INTRIGUING BELL-HAYWOOD RECITAL BEFORE FULL HOUSE IN WEILL HALL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, February 08, 2019
A big portion of the capacity audience in Weill Hall February 8th came to hear violinist Joshua Bell’s virtuosity, and were treated as well to splendid playing from Sam Haywood, Mr. Bell’s regular pianist since 2010. The duo performed three engaging sonatas, highlighted by Mr. Bell’s sterling techn...
Symphony
TRIPLE PLAY UKIAH SYMPHONY CONCERT AND TCHAIKOVSKY SERENADE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Over the years the Ukiah Symphony’s concerts have been in the Classical Sonoma Calendar sections, but rarely has this Orchestra, now in its 39th season, had a full winter season concert review. The provocative Jan. 27 program in Mendocino College’s Center Theater seemed a good reason to reacquaint ...
Symphony
JACKSON THEATER WELCOMES A NEW RESIDENT ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Moving to a permanent new performance venue can be a perilous undertaking for an orchestra, with different acoustics, the loyal audience finding the new spot and infrastructure challenges of lighting and lobby and backstage operations. In their first concert Jan. 26 in Windsor’s Jackson Theater the...
Symphony
ECLECTIC PASSIONATE PROGRAMMING AT MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 26, 2019
The Marin Symphony’s second Masterworks concert of the 2018-19 season featured works by John Adams, Sibelius and Brahms, a masterful assembly. In a spoken introduction before the program’s first half, conductor Alasdair Neale primed the audience for the “terra incognita” of Adams’ The Chairman Dance...
Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
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