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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...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Valley of the Moon Music Festival / Saturday, July 22, 2017
Kyle Stegall, tenor; Elizabeth Blumenstock, violin; Tanya Tomkins, cello; Jeffrey LaDeur and Eric Zivian, piano

Pianist Jeffrey LaDeur and Cellist Tanya Tomkins July 22

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 Sonoma attended the first concert.

Following lengthy introductory comments by pianist Eric Zivian, the artist played Bach’s first Prelude from the Well Tempered Clavier, and followed with Chopin’s first Prelude from the Op. 28 Preludes. The Bach was played with accented first notes in each bar with rock solid tempo and no forte at the climax. Both were played on a Mozart-era instrument copy, frequently featured in concerts by Mr. Zivian along with a c. 1841 grand. The Chopin playing was lovely with a soft arpeggiated last chord.

Tenor Kyle Stegall, violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock and cellist Tanya Tomkins joined Mr. Zivian in the six-minute “Ich Traue Seiner Gnaden” from Bach’s church Cantata In Allen Meinsn Taten, BWV 97. A judicious tempo allowed Mr. Stegall to artfully swell on the first note of each stanza, over a clear meandering violin part and the ground of the cello and piano lines. He sang without score during the entire concert.

With Roy Malan Ms. Blumenstock must be the most performing of Northern California violinists, playing frequently in festivals and baroque orchestras. She closed the first half with the monumental Chaconne from Bach’s D Minor Partita, BWV 1004. Bach was surely on fire when he wrote it, but Ms. Blumenstock’s small-scaled reading from score was persuasive but not to everyone’s taste. She used minimal vibrato, usually at the end of phrases, for small emphasis and to highlight transitions. Double stops were drawn out in a smooth, non-insistent approach that didn’t have a note above mezzo forte throughout. It was the slowest interpretation from a virtuoso in recent memory. The audience of 200 applauded warmly.

Schumann, the ostensible subject of the two-week Festival, wrote Six Studies for Pedal Piano, Op. 56, in 1845 for the now extinct piano with pedals and strings under the conventional instrument. Liszt had one in Weimar, and versions of the six include various groupings of instruments. Two-piano performances are occasionally heard, and here the music was divided in two groups of three – violin, cello piano; one piano, four hands. The “Nicht zu Schnell” had an improvisatory character, and the second supported a long, laconic theme with each instrument trading voices up to two chaste piano chords. The third (andantino) had the most Schumann character in a “call and response” mode. Echt German romanticism.

Jeffrey LaDeur took the treble piano part (though Mr. Zivian kept the damper pedal) and both gave an authoritative account of the final three Etudes. The first had Mr. LaDeur carrying the themes through a surprising modulation, and the jazzy Nicht zu Schnell was a low-key dance drama. The stately slow adagio clearly exposed the fugues that mostly ended with trills. It was low voltage playing of elegance.

In a program with lots of individual pieces the viola wasn’t forgotten as Andrew Gonzales played Schumann’s Rasch from the Märchenbilder, Op. 113, with fellow Festival apprentice Jennifer Lee at the piano. Mr. Gonzalez had a big sound, ranging from a will-of-the-wisp skittish bow to delicate slides on notes for emphasis.

The viola work past without much interest, where the following two Chopin Songs from Op. 74 were some of the highlights of the afternoon. Mr. Stegall sang one of the two most famous from the set of 17 (“Moja Pieszczotka” – My Joys or My Delights) in richly hued and distinct Polish, with an extended delicious ritard before the second stanza. He made a strong case for this tenor version rather than the more popular light soprano. The following “Melodya” was sung with unique rhythmic verve and a delicate postlude from Mr. Zivian.

The duo followed with two Schumann songs, Widmung (from the Myrthen set of Op. 25) and “Im Rhein, im Heiligen Strome.” Both were sung beautifully, especially the second from arguably Schumann’s greatest work, the Op. 48 Dichterliebe. Mr. Stegall is a master of dark contrasts, and Mr. Zivian’s long postludes were alluring and everywhere lovely.

Two more works finished the long program: Liszt’s popular transcription of Schumann’s Widmung song, and the largo from Chopin’s Cello Sonata in G. Mr. LaDeur played a subtle and perfectly phrased Widmung, never forcing the fortepiano’s sound but managing to give the impression of the greater sonority of a modern concert grand. It was fastidious pianism.

Ms. Tomkins played the short cello movement with the appropriate heart-on-sleeve ardor, using a wide vibrato. Most of the five-minute piece is in the lower register, and Ms. Tomkins made the most of her instrument’s deep sound and the beguiling theme. It was the melody that presumably most of the audience had in their ears on the way home from a unique and satisfying festival experience.