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Opera
SPARKLING CIMAROSA OPERA HIGHLIGHTS MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kathryn Stewart
Friday, July 13, 2018
The Classical music era was a time of extraordinary innovation. Dominated by composers from the German-speaking countries, the period witnessed the handiwork of masterpieces by two classical giants, Haydn and Mozart. Both composers put forth a tremendous catalog of masterful works and perhaps to our...
Symphony
!PURA VIDA! A SONIC TRIUMPH FOR SO CO PHIL IN THRILLING COSTA RICA TOUR CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Long anticipated events, such as a great sporting game, gourmet feast, holiday trip or a concert, occasionally fall way short of expectations. The results don’t measure to expectations. With the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Costa Rica concert June 19, the performance exceeded any heated or tenuou...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now they seem to be on almost ever...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Valley of the Moon Music Festival / Sunday, July 17, 2016
Kyle Stegall, tenor
Elizabeth Blumenstock, violin
Tanya Tomkins, cello
Eric Zivian, fortepiano

Eric Vivian and Tanya Tomkins Play Beethoven July 17 (John Hefti Photo)

PERIOD INSTRUMENT SOUND AT VOM FESTIVAL'S OPENING CONCERT AT HANNA CENTER

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 17, 2016

Every summer music festival has a unique character, and the Valley of the Moon Music Festival in Sonoma has the singular character of stressing period instruments that sound well for mostly period repertoire.

In the Festival’s opening concert July 17 this was best in evidence for two Beethoven works, the “Kakadu” Piano Trio and the seven cello variations based on a theme from Mozart’s opera “The Magic Flute.” Eric Zivian, Northern California’s premier fortepianist, brought two of his instruments (period copies) to the Hanna Boys Center auditorium and convinced even skeptical listeners of the fortepiano’s center stage role.

He began with a movement of Clementi’s B Flat Sonata, Op. 24, No. 2, with fluid scale playing and balance in the registers. Key dip in a c. 1795 instrument is less than a modern piano, allowing for rapid rippling scales, clipped phrasing and assured ornamentation. The cadenza was short.

Mr. Zivian, heard in every work on the program, then joined tenor Kyle Stegall in a brief aria from Mozart’s Opera “Magic Flute.” Titled Die Bildnis ist Bezaubernd, the music brought out Mr. Stegall’s rich sonority, excellent German diction and his skill at swelling delicately on soft notes. It was charm with strength.

Gut strings are a required item for most Festival music at Hanna, and the Mozart Major Sonata for Violin, K. 526, was played with these strings by Elizabeth Blumenstock, again with Mr. Zivian at the piano. In the Molto Allegro the violinist’s tone was thin and often covered by the piano, with ends of phrases fading away and little rhythmic flexibility. It went this way through the Sonata, though in the Andante the duo played lovely balanced pianissimo phrases.

This reviewer has heard the violinist many times before, mostly with the renowned American Bach Soloists, and in music with less required vibrato and projection the result has been impressive. This afternoon, even during the Presto finale, the violin articulation didn’t save a timid sound. This reaction may simply be too deep an association with classical recordings of the A Major with more powerful steel strings, from Grumiaux/Haskill and Schumsky/Balsam.

After intermission Festival founder and cellist Tanya Tomkins joined Mr. Zivian for the buoyant Variations on Bei Männern, welche Liebe Fühlen.” Here Ms. Tomkins' instrument also had gut strings but had a strong bottom end sound and that was agile but different from a differently strung cello. The phrasing throughout was deft and Mr. Zivian, in a long introduction to the fourth Variation, inserted brief tasty ritards, meshing well with Ms. Tomkins’ slow vibrato at the end of phrases. Mozart’s catchy tune with this duo became a cheerful delight.

Mr. Stegall returned to sing three Mozart Lieder. The short (45 seconds) Wie unglücklich bin nit (K. 125g) found him almost in a baritone range, and the Lied der Freiheit (K. 506) was bouncy and animated, with crystal clear diction. Song three was certainly the highlight, and the warm Abendempfindung (K. 523) had a questioning plea over soft arpeggios from Mr. Zivian, and ascending and descending soft scales from Mr. Stegall. It was the longest song and caught a plaintive and sad character. Applause was heavy.

Ending the concert was the G Minor Beethoven Trio, Op. 121a, with Mr. Zivian using a Mendelssohn-era piano. Following a long somber introduction the music is light hearted, and the trio played it that way. Ms. Blumenstock at times used a Spiccato bow in variations with clipped phrases and each variation seemed to ease naturally into then next one.

Thematic projection qualities from the violin and cello fit the 1824 work perfectly, though the top notes in the piano had a peculiar electric piano tone quality without partials. The composer’s phenomenal command of the variation form was everywhere in evidence, and the Accelerando to the end brought the concert to a vivid close.

There was no encore and refreshments were served on the auditorium’s breezy and sunny deck, a happy VOM tradition set to carry through the additional seven concerts of the second year of the Festival.