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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...
Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the season’s final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church, as the performers...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Music at Oakmont / Thursday, October 20, 2016
Trio Valtorna. Ida Kavafian, violin; David Jolley, horn; Gilles Vonsattel, piano

Violinist Ida Kavafian

TRIO VALTORNA'S JAUNTY EXPLORATIONS AT OAKMONT CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 20, 2016

New York’s Trio Valtorna came to Music at Oakmont’s Berger Auditorium stage Oct. 20 with three disparate works, and in two of them instrumental sonic continuity was not a main goal.

But it was in the second half’s seminal piece, Brahms’ E-Flat Major Trio (Op. 40) for horn, violin and piano, that brought the audience of 150 and violinist Ida Kavafian, hornist David Jolley and pianist Gilles Yonsattel most happily together. The opening Andante was played with special emphasis on the varied return (three times) to the luscious main theme, and the intricate balancing of the five harmonic keys. It was never a strongly dramatic reading but more svelte and lyrical, even in the second climax. The lively Scherzo was fiery and reminded me of the fast sections of the composer’s C Minor Piano Quartet. Controlled velocity.

Brahms’ haunting Adagio was given a slow and moving interpretation, bass heavy at times, and Ms. Kavafian’s exposed accuracy of pitch was perfection. Mr. Jolley came to the fore in the Allegro finale with judicious quick note runs and subtle short crescendos and decrescendos. One the whole the performance favored ensemble and lyricism over sustained drama.

Ending the first half was a performance of Ravel’s G Major Violin Sonata, played by Ms. Kavafian from score with warm pianism from Mr. Vonsattel. But it’s not a “warm” piece, and the composition from 1927 has lots of stylistic contradictions. Here Ms. Kavafian was in no hurry to get anywhere and used in the opening Allegretto moderate vibrato and a chaste, sunny bottom sound. Mr. Vonsattel’s touch was everywhere adroit. The ending played off seconds with a long held note in the violin with the piano softly following. Beguiling and convincing.

The bluesy Moderato was played in a light march of broken rhythms with jaunty violin pizzicatos and various jazzy inflections and offbeat accents. It’s difficult to bring out the careless “swing” of Ravel’s polytonalities but both musicians seemed to have an intuitive connection with the jazz idiom.

Fine duo playing continued into the Perpetuum Mobile finale with Mr. Vonstattel playing powerfully sharp sound “jabs” and the exploration of a little music from the preceding movements. It was athletic playing at a quick pace that highlighted Ravel’s free rein of cascading ideas and juxtaposition of instrumental texture.

John Harbison’s 1985 Twilight Music for Horn, Violin and Piano opened the program following Mr. Jolley’s remarks regarding the piece, and an odd reference to Brahms’ ensemble with the same instruments. Ms. Kavafian’s violin line was often at the top of its register, and the piece abounds in frantic horn and piano phrases and fragmentary, insistent and jumpy rhythms. The playing was always capable but the lasting effect of the music on the Berger audience was in doubt, and the Harrison work past without much notice.

For me the most memorable part of “Twilight” was near the end when the Valtorna slowed the pace in a major key with unison violin and horn lines, creating a clean and mellow sound absent from most of the 18-minute composition.