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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
THREE BEETHOVEN TRIOS BEGUILE AUDIENCE IN FEB. 19 WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Chamber music concerts featuring one composer can be tricky, but the Han/Setzer/Finckel trio made a Feb. 19 Weill Hall audience of 500 hear and to a degree see the boundless creativity of Beethoven. The G Major Trio, Op. 1, No. 2, opened the afternoon’s Beethoven odyssey and one wonders why it is t...
Chamber
AUTHORITATIVE BARTOK HIGHLIGHTS TETZLAFF VIOLIN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 18, 2017
Christian Tetzlaff’s Feb. 18 violin recital rolled along with lively and fresh readings of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert when the specter of Bartok’s granitic Second Sonata intervened. The sonic shock to the audience of 250 in Weill was palpable. Composed in 1923 the 20-minute two-movement work i...
Symphony
WHAT SOUND DO STAR-CROSSED LOVERS MAKE?
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 12, 2017
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, so the Santa Rosa Symphony feted the occasion by telling and retelling the story of Romeo and Juliet, a tale ever the more poignant during our era of stark divisions. The first telling was from Berlioz; the second from Prokofiev. In between was Brahms’ monu...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Green Music Center / Saturday, March 05, 2016
Tanya Tomkins, cello; Eric Zivian, fortepiano

Cellist Tanya Tomkins

VAL MOON MINI FESTIVAL ENDS WITH SPIRITUAL BEETHOVEN SONATAS

by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, March 05, 2016

In the final of four chamber music concerts by Valley of the Moon Festival musicians, three of Beethoven's iconic cello and piano sonatas were played March 5 to an appreciative audience in Schroeder Hall.

Cellist Tanya Tomkins and fortepianist Eric Zivian performed on historic instruments appropriate to the Classic and Romantic eras. Built in Berkeley in the 1980s, Mr. Zivian's instrument is modeled on a 1796 piano and with a wooden frame is closer to a harpsichord than to a modern piano. The 1811 cello with gut strings allows excellent articulation and the two instruments match and blend well in addition to providing impressive clarity of sound. The three sonatas, Opus 5, No. 2 in G Minor, Opus 102, No. 2 in D Major, and the A Major, Op. 69, are from respectively Beethoven's early, late and middle periods. The performers gave spoken historical and biographical background to these pieces and created a warm informal atmosphere for the concert.

Composed by the young Beethoven who was traveling frequently and making a name for himself as a pianist, composer and improviser, the G Minor Sonata opened the program. The piano part is virtuosic but starts quietly allowing the cello part to grow out of the hushed piano themes. After a very long silence, a surprise burst into Allegro/Presto juxtaposes strength and fragility, lyricism and drama. The musicians conversed and sang through their instruments, always sensitive and collaborating with improvisatory freshness. The separations between performers, composer and listeners were cast away and replaced by a unified musical experience. The Rondo movement was full of humor and delightful rubato touches. It was mock serious and then playful, sweeping passages propelling wild joy to an exuberant ending. Notable were the clear accompanying figures on the cello and variety of color in tone. The fortepiano upper register was bell-like and the bass sometimes growled and twanged in loud passages to great effect.

The following piece on the program is actually the last of Beethoven's cello/piano sonatas, and here piano and cello are composed as equal partners. The Allegro con brio starts and startles with upward shooting figures. There are moments of calm and then rapid Baroque-like sixteenth note passages. Not always easy to understand, the music wanders the landscape of modern sounds in a "progressive and adventurous" fashion. This is the world of his Opus 130 string quartet.

The Adagio is heartbreaking in its beauty and tragedy. Cello and piano phrases evoked murmurs and cries of the soul with wonderful expressiveness. A major lyrical section flows and consoles until a suspenseful slipping downward harmonically leads through a questioning fragment to the finale, a strange complex fugue. Here Beethoven looks to the future and beyond. The two instruments weave and tease, shocking the ear with dissonances and complex cross rhythms that are often jazzy and frequently baffling. It was a masterful rendition, played with a combination of lightness and power.

In the A major Sonata after the intermission the opening cello theme with its rising fifth and weaving elegance was a superb legato followed by piano flourishes, the instruments trading ideas and emotions. The cello sometimes sounded like a viola and pizzicato passages were lively and resonant. The two virtuosi went deep and rose from mystical and mysterious moments to heroism. The Scherzo was crisp and very rhythmical, played with extended offbeat phrases and lovely pizzicato effects at the end.

Finally the Allegro vivace completed this mini Beethoven Festival with romantically lyrical themes and flying passages for both instruments creating palpable audience excitement. After searching, yearning, some hopelessness and doubt, the key of A major returns gloriously at the exciting end and Beethoven emerges from turbulent waters triumphant.

Joanna Bramel Young contributed to this review