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SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 08, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
Choral and Vocal
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
BEETHOVEN'S VALENTINE'S DAY GIFT IN RAC SEBASTOPOL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, February 14, 2020
Continuing a season of Redwood Arts Council successes, the Kouzov Duo performed an eclectic Valentine’s Day concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church before an audience of 125. Beethoven’s charming Op. 66 Variations on Mozart’s “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from the opera the Magic Flute was a bouncy ...
LUSH BACH PERFORMANCE IN DENK'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 13, 2020
Memorable artistic interpretations of musical masterpieces are often at extremes, and with the Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (WTC - Book I) that Jeremy Denk played in Weill Hall Feb. 13, the pianist was only sporadically at unique or ebullient musical ends. But his playing wasn’t exactly at opposite...
BROWNE, PAREMSKI HEAD STELLAR CAST AT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 09, 2020
The Feb. 9 performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony offered a healthy dose of 21st century music firmly bound to the 19th. Matt Browne’s first symphony, “The Course of Empire”—based on a series of five paintings by Thomas Cole, who founded the Hudson River School of American painting in the 1820s—emp...
FRENCH ORCHESTRAL MUSIC A FIRST FOR THE SO CO PHILHARMONIC
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 02, 2020
Over many years the Sonoma County Philharmonic has played little French music, but perhaps this oversight was corrected Feb. 2 in a splendid all-Gallic program Feb. 1 and 2 in the Jackson Theater. Classical Sonoma reviewed the Sunday afternoon concert. In his eighth conducting season with the So C...
POLISH MUSICAL WORLDS GLOW BRIGHT IN NFM WROCLAW WEILL PERFORMANCE
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, February 01, 2020
The NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic, with conductor Giancarlo Guerrero, gave a concert of enormous energy and emotional impact on Feb.1 to a small audience in Weill Hall. This orchestra has been a major cultural force in Poland since 1949, playing under many renowned conductors and has been committed to pr...
EXTRAVAGANT ARIAS IN NEXT GENERATION TENORS GALA VALLEJO CONCERT
by Mark Kratz
Saturday, February 01, 2020
“Beautiful, strange, and unnatural…” said orchestra conductor Thomas Conlin when speaking of the tenor voice. One of the coveted voice types of the opera world, the tenor voice is known for it’s piercing tones and soaring, unnatural high notes. The iconic image of the Pagliacci clown (in the famed...
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.