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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
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.