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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
Musicians from the Valley of the Moon Music Festival / Saturday, February 11, 2017
Eric Hoeprich, clarinet; Tanya Tomkins, cello; Eric Zivian, piano; Catherine Manson, violin and viola.

Clarinetist Eric Hoeprich

GOOD OLD WINE IN GOOD OLD BOTTLES AT VOM CONCERT

by Jeff Chan
Saturday, February 11, 2017

February 11 was the first day of sunshine in Sonoma County after nine days of rain, but a nearly full house of music lovers chose to spend their afternoon in Schroeder Hall instead of being outside, soaking up the warm sun. There were two equally compelling reasons to attend this concert, which featured clarinetist Eric Hoeprich, violin/violist Catherine Mason, cellist Tanya Tomkins and pianist Eric Zivian playing a fortepiano: to hear these musicians in a live performance, and to hear them make the case for playing classical-era chamber music on the instruments that were in use at the time the music was written.

The program’s first work was Beethoven’s C-Sharp Minor Sonata (“Moonlight”) that served as an excellent introduction to the characteristic fortepiano sound and the soundscape featured in this concert. The fortepiano differs from the modern piano in several ways: he sustaining pedal is located under the keyboard and is operated by the knee, the strings are thinner, the action is lighter, and the hammers are covered in leather. The resulting sound is lighter and doesn’t sustain as long as the sound from a modern piano.

Beethoven noted in the Sonata’s manuscript that the first movement should be played senza sordino which for a fortepiano meant without string dampers. Currently that would mean “hold the sustaining pedal down without lifting your foot throughout the first movement.” No one playing that movement on a modern piano would consider doing that of course, because the resulting sound would be muddled from start to finish. But because the fortepiano’s “sustain,” even with pedal, is so much shorter, Mr. Zivian’s playing was not muddled, but instead had a dreamy and mysterious atmosphere. The remaining movements were pedaled and articulated in the way we’re accustomed to hearing. It was riveting to hear such a familiar piece performed on the instrument for which it was composed.

The remainder of the program consisted of trios written for various combinations of clarinet, violin, viola, and fortepiano: Mozart’s E-Flat Major (K. 498) trio for clarinet, viola, and fortepiano; Beethoven’s Op. 11 trio for clarinet, cello and piano; and one of Haydn’s exquisite piano trios, H.XV.23. These pieces are normally performed now on a modern piano, a modern clarinet, and on more-tightly strung violin and viola using modern bows.

Ms. Mason and Ms. Tompkins appeared to be using instruments with lower string tensions, and the instrumental bridges and fingerboards looked to be lower than those of modern instruments, and classical-era bows with lower tension on the horsehair produced a sound that balanced well with the fortepiano. In addition, the two women used a compromise position to hold their bows, lower than the Baroque style, but not directly on the frog as in the modern style. Mr. Hoeprich played one of his many period clarinets, an instrument with only five keys and no rings, and a much shorter than modern-style reed, held on the mouthpiece with string as the ligature.

The Mozart Trio (“Kegelstatt”) was played with verve and precision, and the performer’s use of subtle improvisation and ornamentation not present in the printed music provided additional excitement. Mr. Hoeprich's sound had more depth and edge than expected from a period instrument, an improvement on the muffled tone quality of many period clarinet performers. Instrumental balance was an issue, with the clarinet at times overpowering the fortepiano and hiding Mr. Zivian’s dexterous finger work.

It’s no surprise to most listeners that the Haydn work in D Minor (H.XV.23) demonstrates inventiveness and charm. The andante molto first movement is a theme and variations and the composer takes the structure a step further and writes a movement using two themes and sets of variations, one in D Minor and the other in D Major. In the vivace finale a shifting strong beat presages the contemporary practice of a changing meter. This performance featured a wonderful sense of balance between all three instruments and a cohesive interpretation of deft elegance.

The program’s conclusion featured Beethoven’s B-Flat Major Trio that some in the audience may have heard Jan. 29 in Weill, performed by the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio. In the "Gessenhauer" trio the clarinet replaced the violin, and to this reviewer the clarinet version feels more convincing, but this may be because I perform on the clarinet. As with the other pieces on this program, the playing of the 1797 work featured wonderful ensemble and instrumental communication.

Is it better to play classical era music on instruments from the period rather than modern instruments? Would Mozart have written for the modern piano if one had been available for him? Or does that even matter? We can argue these questions, but to this reviewer it’s not a matter of “better,” but a matter of “different,” and appreciating the difference. What keeps period instrument performances from being just a novelty? When they are done as well as were done in this ensemble’s Schroeder concert.