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Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s Sonoma Overt...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
Chamber
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, perfor...
Symphony
AMERICAN CLASSICS SPARKLE UNDER KAHANE’S BATON
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Jeffrey Kahane, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s former conductor, returned to the Weill Hall podium on Saturday night, and the results were expectedly wonderful. The concert of American classics was by turns playful (Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”), emotional (Barber’s violin concerto) and triumphant (...
Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
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.