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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, 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