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Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
Symphony
PEACE AND LOVE FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 04, 2018
Before the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 4 performance of Leonard Bernstein’s “Symphonic Dances from West Side Story,” Symphony CEO Alan Silow took a moment to acknowledge the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack and to observe that music offers a more peaceful and loving view of the world. Mr. ...
Chamber
ATOS TRIO IN MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 04, 2018
When the ATOS Piano Trio planned their all-Russian touring program at their Berlin home base, it had a strong elegiac, even tragic theme that surely resonated with their Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience Nov. 4 in Mill Valley. Comprised of Annette von Hehn, violin; Thomas Hoppe, piano; and...
Chamber
ATOS TRIO IN OCCIDENTAL CHAMBER CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 03, 2018
When the Berlin-based ATOS Piano Trio entered the cramped Occidental Performing Arts stage Nov. 3, the audience of 100 anticipated familiar works in the announced all-Russian program. What they got was a selection of rarely-plays trios, with a gamut of emotions. Then one-movement Rachmaninoff G Mi...
Symphony
MIGHTY SHOSTAKOVICH 10TH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 28, 2018
Just two works were on the opening program of the Marin Symphony’s 67th season Oct. 28, Tchaikovsky’s iconic D Major Violin Concerto, and Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony. Before a full house in the Marin Center Auditorium conductor Alasdair Neale set a judicious opening tempo in the brief orchestra i...
Symphony
VIVALDI FOR ALL SEASONS IN WEILL BAROQUE CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, October 27, 2018
The Venice Baroque Orchestra, a dozen superb musicians that include strings, harpsichord and recorder, played an uplifting concert Oct. 27 of mostly Vivaldi sinfonias and concertos. The Weill Hall audience of 600 had rapt attention throughout, and the playing was of the highest musical level. This r...
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