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Symphony
MENDELSSOHN'S SCOTTISH SAVES THE EVENING IN SRS WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Monday, February 11, 2019
The audience entering Weill Hall for Santa Rosa Symphony concerts Feb. 9-11 were presented with a program that on first glance appeared a curious patchwork – a great symphony mixed with a seldom heard concerto and two disparate overtures, and a guest conductor unknown locally. Monday night’s concer...
Recital
INTRIGUING BELL-HAYWOOD RECITAL BEFORE FULL HOUSE IN WEILL HALL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, February 08, 2019
A big portion of the capacity audience in Weill Hall February 8th came to hear violinist Joshua Bell’s virtuosity, and were treated as well to splendid playing from Sam Haywood, Mr. Bell’s regular pianist since 2010. The duo performed three engaging sonatas, highlighted by Mr. Bell’s sterling techn...
Symphony
TRIPLE PLAY UKIAH SYMPHONY CONCERT AND TCHAIKOVSKY SERENADE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Over the years the Ukiah Symphony’s concerts have been in the Classical Sonoma Calendar sections, but rarely has this Orchestra, now in its 39th season, had a full winter season concert review. The provocative Jan. 27 program in Mendocino College’s Center Theater seemed a good reason to reacquaint ...
Symphony
JACKSON THEATER WELCOMES A NEW RESIDENT ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Moving to a permanent new performance venue can be a perilous undertaking for an orchestra, with different acoustics, the loyal audience finding the new spot and infrastructure challenges of lighting and lobby and backstage operations. In their first concert Jan. 26 in Windsor’s Jackson Theater the...
Symphony
ECLECTIC PASSIONATE PROGRAMMING AT MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 26, 2019
The Marin Symphony’s second Masterworks concert of the 2018-19 season featured works by John Adams, Sibelius and Brahms, a masterful assembly. In a spoken introduction before the program’s first half, conductor Alasdair Neale primed the audience for the “terra incognita” of Adams’ The Chairman Dance...
Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
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.