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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
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...
Opera
DONIZETTI'S DON PASQUALE HAS LYRICAL CHARM IN MENDOCINO FESTIVAL PRODUCTION
by Elly Lichenstein
Friday, July 14, 2017
Mendocino Music Festival's production of Donizetti's beloved opera buffa Don Pasquale - a one-night affair July 15 that was presented in an enormous tent on a greensward overlooking the Pacific Ocean - delighted an audience of more than 600 while doing some real justice to this frothy gem of commedi...
Recital
NOVACEK'S 2ND HALF TRIFECTA SCORES AT MENDO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 13, 2017
Modern classical piano recitals are in two parts, with longer and perhaps more profound music proceeding perhaps shorter and usually stimulating lighter fare. In John Novacek’s July 13 Mendocino Music Festival recital the best playing came unexpectedly in the eight abbreviated works comprising the ...
Recital
STYLUS AND PLAYING FANTASTICUS IN YOUNG'S ORGAN RECITAL
by Paul Blanchard
Sunday, June 25, 2017
Organist Robert Young gave a wonderful tour through the stylus fantasticus (fantastic style) organ literature June 25 playing a recital on the Casavant organ at Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa. Mr. Young recently became the organist at the Church and previously served for 20 years as Music D...
Chamber
KODALY DUO TRUMPS POPULAR MENDELSSOHN TRIO AT SLV CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 21, 2017
It’s not really a secret, but Sonoma County’s best chamber music series is one without much notoriety or publicity. The concerts at Santa Rosa’s Spring Lake Village programs are only for residents and a few invited guests. Impresario Robert Hayden years ago honed his producer skills as founder of ...
Recital
DEMANDING VIOLIN SONATAS CONQUERED BY BEILMAN-WEISS DUO IN SCHROEDER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, May 14, 2017
Violinist Benjamin Beilman’s ravishing Mozart performance at last summer’s Weill Hall ChamberFest finale lured an enthusiastic crowd to Schroeder Hall May 14 to hear if his secure virtuosity was up to a program of demanding sonatas. He did not disappoint. With the powerful pianist Orion Weiss in t...
Symphony
SOVIETS INVADE WEILL HALL, TAKE NO PRISONERS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 07, 2017
Bruno Ferrandis may be French, but he excels in Soviet repertoire. His Slavonic expertise was more than amply demonstrated at the Santa Rosa Symphony’s May 7 concert, where the program began joyfully with Khachaturian’s ballet suite from “Masquerade,” surged forward with Prokofiev’s second violin co...
Recital
MASTERFUL PIANISM IN GOODE'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, May 05, 2017
Pianist Richard Goode programmed an evening of treasures May 5 from four great composers, and is an artist of intimacy and intelligence, power and passion, able to go deep and to soar. Hearing Mr. Goode play this literature was a reminder of how music does indeed bridge worlds and time. Bach’s E m...
Recital
ELEGANT ORGAN SALUTE TO THE REFORMATION
by Paul Blanchard
Sunday, April 30, 2017
Organist Jonathan Dimmock presented an April 30 recital in homage to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, playing Schroeder Hall’s wonderful Brombaugh instrument. Mr. Dimmock is the organist for the San Francisco Symphony, principal organist for the Palace of the Legion of Honor and teaches at...
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.