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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, 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