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Recital
SCHUMANN AND BARTOK HIGHLIGHT BRONFMAN RECITAL IN WEILL
by Lee Ormasa
Friday, April 21, 2017
Those people once addicted to the “Angry Birds” game application likely suffered an auditory flashback during the opening measures of the allegro from Bartok’s Suite, Op. 14, the opening work in Yefim Bronfman’s April 21 recital at Weill Hall. The repetitive opening figures of the Bartok were...
Symphony
HULKING MAHLER "TITAN" AT SO CO PHIL'S SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 08, 2017
A composer’s first symphony rarely gives a clear indication of what beautiful complexities will follow over the years. Early Mozart and Tchaikovsky are examples, and the big exceptions to this axiom are the “firsts” of Beethoven, Shostakovich and Mahler. Tackling Mahler ‘s D Major Symphony (No. 1,...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY STAYS CLOSE TO HOME
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 26, 2017
Santa Rosa Symphony concerts usually feature high-powered soloists imported from afar, but for their recent “Bring on the Strings” concert set, they stuck close to home, thrusting their principal violin, viola and cello into the limelight. The violinist (Joseph Edelberg) and the violist (Elizabeth P...
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 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