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Symphony
ZUILL PLAYS ZWILICH WITH SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The Santa Rosa Symphony took a cautious step toward the return of live music in their March 28 virtual concert by sharing the stage with an actual live soloist rather than an apparition. Star cellist Zuill Bailey was still masked, and his back was toward the equally masked and plexiglassed orchestra...
Chamber
ECLECTIC CELLO PIANO VIRTUAL RECITAL FROM TOMKINS ZIVIAN DUO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The venerable 41-year Redwood Arts Council Series in Occidental has joined the virtual recital world with low budget but artistically satisfying programs, mostly using videos filmed in the performer’s residences. March 28 saw the Tanya Tomkins-Eric Zivian duo present an eclectic program from their ...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HITS THE SWEET SPOT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Small orchestras can inhabit a sweet spot between chamber ensembles and full orchestras, but how well they hit that spot depends on the composer's orchestration and the players' ability to project. That dependence was on full display in the Santa Rosa Symphony's Feb. 28 concert, which featured three...
Chamber
NOVEL OBOE-HARPSICHORD RECITAL FROM AIKEN DUO IN UKIAH
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Oboe and harpsichord recitals are a rare North Bay event, even in a pandemic environment where a formal hall setting isn’t available. So it was a delight Feb. 21 to experience on the Ukiah Symphony’s website a recital by Symphony oboist Beth Aiken and harpsichordist husband Tom. The Aiken home vis...
Symphony
A HEALTHY MIX OF TRANSCRIPTIONS AND ORIGINALS FROM THE SR SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Transcriptions and ascending arpeggios were the order of the day on Jan. 24, as the Santa Rosa Symphony performed uplifting works by Bach/Webern, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Marianna Martínes and Mozart. The concert video was made in Weill Hall on Jan. 9. The first transcription was Webern’s 1935 renderi...
Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series / Wednesday, June 21, 2017
Left Coast Chamber Ensemble. Tanya Tomkins and Leighton Fong, cello; Eric Zivian, piano; Anna Presler, violin

Left Coast Musicians A. Presler, E. Zivian and T. Tomkins

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 the well-known Music at Oakmont Series, and now he often mounts two Spring Lake Village concerts a month in an intimate setting with excellent acoustics. No other North Coast music productions can equal his seminal accomplishment.

The June 21 concert featured Berkeley’s Left Coast Chamber Ensemble and drew 125 people to the Montgomery Center on a warm evening.

Eric Zivian, perhaps Northern California’s most active fortepiano artist, played the house’s conventional concert instrument and opened in two works, first one of Schumann’s Six Studies after Caprices of Paganini, and then Chopin’s F Minor Fantasy, Op. 49. Played from score, the Schumann was full of swirls of arpeggios and passed without much notice, and the famous Fantasy received a workmanlike interpretation that stressed speed in runs at the expense of tone color, inner voices and an assertive left hand line. The half-pedal runs contributed to sonic speed but not clarity and shape.

The concert closed with arguably the most popular piano trio ever written, Mendelssohn’s D Minor, and the performance should have the evening’s gem. Loaded with memorable tunes and richly hued contrasts, the reading by cellist Tanya Tomkins, violinist Anna Presler and Mr. Zivian we beset throughout by problems of balance. Mr. Zivian’s playing from the beginning sporadically overpowered his colleagues, and Ms. Presler lacked a strong thematic projection to blend with the piano part.

The Ensemble’s best playing came in the andante where the sonic mix was fluid, but even with the Mendelssohn’s glorious heart-on-sleeve themes there wasn’t enough tonal warmth and rhythmic subtlety to make the performance rise above the routine.

Tempos in the first three movements were convincing but in the concluding finale the tempo was pushed, generating occasional smudged notes. This music can take high speed but it needs clarity in articulation. This lack of ensemble continuity missed many small delights, including the delicious left-hand accents in the piano line that the composer surprisingly inserted, and a cohesive interplay of instrumental voices.

Kodaly’s Op. 7 Duo for Violin and Cello was far and away the concert’s highlight. Cellist Leighton Fong and Ms. Presler combined to give this rarely heard 24-minute work a scintillating performance that never felt extended or the lack of additional instruments. Composed in 1914, the three-movement Duo seems in a direct line to Janacek’s string quartets, especially the “Intimate Letters” Quartet written in 1928, and Kodaly’s own powerful Sonata for Solo Cello (Op. 8) that Alicia Weilerstein played here several years ago.

In the opening heroicallegro serioso the repeats had ample rubato and each had a different but subtle character. Beautiful playing was heard throughout, ending in a fast march and pensive chords before light filigree. The instruments were in perfect equality. Kodaly is a master of string pizzicato and positioning the violin constantly in the upper register, with many long-held notes on the E string. Ms. Presler played the demanding part with aplomb, sometimes leaning into a note and alternating a narrow and thick violin sound. Both Mr. Fong and Ms. Presler were able to clearly project the many turbulent passages, especially in the cello line.

The playing in the plaintive adagio was captivating, the themes exchanged often between cello and violin, and the acoustics of the hall favoring clear articulation. Often the instrumental voices were many octaves apart, but were always distinct, especially in the many descending three-note cello phrases. The playing underscored the music’s sadness, and in strange way its theatricality.

The improvisatory introduction to the last movement (maestoso e largamente) opened quietly and became dance like in the duo’s interpretation. Here Ms. Presler was particularly effective with accurate intonation and deft phrasing. Themes dramatically soared upward and then quietly subsided. Both players were carefully sensitive to the frequent contrasts in this rapidly evolving music, and their virtuosity was compelling and everywhere enjoyable. Mr. Fong’s cello had everywhere sonorous depth, ranging from a deep bass line up into the viola sphere.

Spring Lake Village concerts often spring musical surprises, so finding the sensational Kodaly performance displacing the ever-popular Mendelssohn Trio should not have been startling. That’s surely a reason to be a musical explorer.