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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, 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