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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
PianoSonoma - Vino and Vibrato Series / Tuesday, July 26, 2016
Julia Glenn, violin; Mika Sasaki, Michael Shinn, Jessica Chow Shinn, Peter Dugan, piano; Emi Ferguson, flute; Kara Sainz, mezzo-soprano

Violinist Julia Glenn

PIANOSONOMA SERIES OPENS WITH ECHT GERMAN ROMANTICISM

by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, July 26, 2016

PianoSonoma’s second season in SSU’s Schroeder Hall began July 26 with a mixed program under the series appellation “Vino & Vibrato.” The set of student workshops and concerts, headed by Juilliard School pianists Jessica and Michael Shinn, puts artists in residence in close contact with Sonoma County adult musicians for two weeks each summer.

Titled a “Love Triangle” (Clara and Robert Schumann with Brahms), Clara Schumann’s Three Romances for Violin and Piano, Op. 22, had a shaky opening. Violinist Julia Glenn’s intonation wavered and the thematic projection in the soaring melancholy of the Andante was tentative. Clear note taking in the Allegretto was seldom clear, but her best playing came in the final Agitato’s light lyricism, and Ms. Glenn leaned gracefully into some notes with palpable effect.

An 11-minute interlude work from Brahms, his piano transcription for four hands from Robert Schumann’s E-Flat Major Quartet, Op. 47, (Andante only) was played by the Shinns. Ms. Shin was segundo and the arching phrases, lovely counterpoint and poignant sadness of the super-romantic music was vivid and chaste. Mr. Shinn noted to the audience that the work was Brahms’ best love song for Clara, but that gift could also be the Andante from the Op. 60 C Minor Piano Quartet.

Pianist Mika Sasaki played well with forceful rolling chords in the final Romance, and continued admirable pianism with two sets of variations on a Robert Schumann theme from his Op. 99 Bunte Blätter. First came Clara’s Op. 20, and Ms. Sasaki’s tempos were never rushed and she played with a subtle touch, though over pedaling at times made the left-hand line muddy. The slower variations and the concluding arpeggios were lovely.

Brahms’ Op 9 Variations on the same theme is far removed from the composer’s virtuosic Handel Variations, and Ms. Sasaki played 12 of the written 16. Few other composers (Bizet, Rubinstein) at this time were writing formal variations for piano, and the pianist made a good case for the 1854 work with ruminating themes, a boisterous repeated-note variation and a catchy dance variation. The music had a far off feel with the pianist playing strong bass chords before in the last variation slowing down the tempo to elegant effect.

Following intermission mezzo-soprano Kara Sainz joined pianist Peter Dugan in three sets of songs: three from Brahms and two each by Clara and Robert. Clara’s Liebst du um Schonheit and Liebeszauber were performed well but the better known Brahms and Robert Schumann works overshadowed them. The big “Wie Melodien” (Op. 105, No. 1) was verbally introduced by Mr. Duggan, and his clean distinctive piano sound melded well with Ms. Sainz’s supple voice and excellent German diction.

Ms. Sainz’ slow steady voice sounded comely in the well-known “Die Mainacht” (Op. 43, No. 2), but lacked the last bit of warmth in the biggest climaxes of “Meine Leibe ist grun” (My love is Green), Op. 65, No. 5.

The concert’s last offering, the Robert Schumann songs, was a fitting end. Ms. Sainz flattened (presumably by artistic design) some notes in phrases in “Er, der Herrlichste von allen,” from the cycle Frauenliebe und Leben, a seminal work for mezzo. Here Mr. Dugan’s playing at places covered the singer, but was in perfect balance for the operatic “Widmung” from the cycle Myrthen, Op. 25. Some of the raw vocal power and color needed in this song was absent, but perhaps Liszt’s two piano transcriptions of “Widmung” are too much in mind, and defer the beauty of this celebrated song from a salutary mezzo.

Most of the 80 people in the hall rose in a short ovation.