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Symphony
CONDUCTOR PLAYOFFS BEGIN IN SANTA ROSA
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 08, 2017
The Santa Rosa Symphony is calling 2017-18 “a choice season” because the next few months offer the audience and the symphony’s board of directors a chance to choose a new conductor from a pool of five candidates. Each candidate will lead a three-concert weekend set this fall and winter, with a final...
Symphony
DVORAK AND TCHAIKOVSKY ORCHESTRAL COLOR AT SO CO PHIL SEASON OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 30, 2017
A concert with curious repertoire and splashy orchestral color launched the 19th season of the Sonoma County Philharmonic Sept. 30 in Santa Rosa High School’s Auditorium. Why curious? Conductor Norman Gamboa paired the ever-popular Dvorak and his rarely heard 1891 trilogy In Nature’s Realm, with t...
Recital
ELEGANT PIANISM IN WATER MUSIC CHARMS HOUSE RECITAL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 03, 2017
A standard component of house concerts often involve listeners hearing the music but also smelling the lasagna and seeing the champagne in the adjacent kitchen. But it was not the case Sept. 3 at Sandra Shen’s Concerts Grand House Recital performance, as her riveting piano playing enthralled the sm...
Chamber
YOUNG MUSICIANS SHINE AT PIANO SONOMA CONCERT
by Lee Ormasa
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
The third in a series of four concerts by Piano Sonoma artists in residence, part of the Vino and Vibrato Series, was held August 1 in Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center. Entitled “The Masters,” the program included works by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. Piano Sonoma is a summer artist-in...
Chamber
THRILLING PROGRAM CLOSES VOM CHAMBER FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, July 30, 2017
The finale of the two-week Valley of the Moon Music Festival closed July 30 with “The Age of Bravura” concert at the Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. The musical selections held to this year’s Festival theme “Schumann’s World - His Music and the Music He Loved.“ This summer Festival features chamber mus...
Chamber
PERIOD INSTRUMENTAL SOUND AT PENULTIMATE VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 30, 2017
In the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival’s penultimate concert July 30 the perennial issue of period and modern instruments was apparent. But only in the concluding Mendelssohn Trio, as the performances in the two first half works easily avoided instrumental comparisons. Clara Schumann’s t...
Chamber
ECLECTIC REPERTOIRE IN FETCHING VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 22, 2017
One of the purposes of summer music festivals is to present unfamiliar music in an attractive and often small audience setting. The Valley of the Moon Music Festival delightfully met these requirements July 22 and 23 with two concerts in the small hall at Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. Classical Sono...
Recital
ADAMS' PHRYGIAN GATES HIGHLIGHTS MORKOSKI FESTIVAL PERFORMANCE
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Attendees at the Molly Morkoski Mendocino Music Festival recital July 22 were in for a treat, both pianistically and if they happened to buy a tasty cookie during intermission. The program included Beethoven’s Op. 27 Moonlight Sonata, Adams’ Phrygian Gates, a surprise add-on of Grieg’s Holberg Suit...
Symphony
SOARING VERDI REQUIEM CLOSES 31ST MENDOCINO FESTIVAL
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
We speak frequently about how there is nothing like the experience of a live performance. Seldom was this truer than at the July 22 closing performance of the two-week Mendocino Music Festival. The Festival Orchestra, conducted by of Allan Pollack, joined with the Festival Chorus in a moving renderi...
Recital
ORGAN REGISTRATION MASTERY HEARD IN WALHAIN'S RECITAL
by Robert Young
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
A group of 65 lucky attendees July 18 had the pleasure of hearing Etienne Walhain’s recital at the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa. Mr. Walhain is organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Tournai, Belgium, and played to a varied program Bach, Franck, and Reger. He used the tonal resource...
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