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Chamber
YOUNG MUSICIANS SHINE AT PIANO SONOMA CONCERT
by Lee Ormasa
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
The third in a series of four concerts by Piano Sonoma artists in residence, part of the Vino and Vibrato Series, was held August 1 in Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center. Entitled “The Masters,” the program included works by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. Piano Sonoma is a summer artist-in...
Chamber
THRILLING PROGRAM CLOSES VOM CHAMBER FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, July 30, 2017
The finale of the two-week Valley of the Moon Music Festival closed July 30 with “The Age of Bravura” concert at the Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. The musical selections held to this year’s Festival theme “Schumann’s World - His Music and the Music He Loved.“ This summer Festival features chamber mus...
Chamber
PERIOD INSTRUMENTAL SOUND AT PENULTIMATE VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 30, 2017
In the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival’s penultimate concert July 30 the perennial issue of period and modern instruments was apparent. But only in the concluding Mendelssohn Trio, as the performances in the two first half works easily avoided instrumental comparisons. Clara Schumann’s t...
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
ADAMS' PHRYGIAN GATES HIGHLIGHTS MORKOSKI FESTIVAL PERFORMANCE
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Attendees at the Molly Morkoski Mendocino Music Festival recital July 22 were in for a treat, both pianistically and if they happened to buy a tasty cookie during intermission. The program included Beethoven’s Op. 27 Moonlight Sonata, Adams’ Phrygian Gates, a surprise add-on of Grieg’s Holberg Suit...
Symphony
SOARING VERDI REQUIEM CLOSES 31ST MENDOCINO FESTIVAL
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
We speak frequently about how there is nothing like the experience of a live performance. Seldom was this truer than at the July 22 closing performance of the two-week Mendocino Music Festival. The Festival Orchestra, conducted by of Allan Pollack, joined with the Festival Chorus in a moving renderi...
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 REVIEW
Valley of the Moon Music Festival / Sunday, July 30, 2017
Jennifer Frautschi, violin; Liana Bérubé, viola; Jeffrey LaDeur and Eric Zivian, piano; Rachel Wong, violin; Liana Bérubé, viola; Tanya Tomkins, cello

Brahms' Quintet July 30 at the VOM Festival (J. Hill Photo)

THRILLING PROGRAM CLOSES VOM CHAMBER FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER

by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, July 30, 2017

The finale of the two-week Valley of the Moon Music Festival closed July 30 with “The Age of Bravura” concert at the Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. The musical selections held to this year’s Festival theme “Schumann’s World - His Music and the Music He Loved.“

This summer Festival features chamber musicians playing period instruments of the Classical and Romantic era, and the piano used for this concert was a restored 1841 instrument originally built in Vienna by Franz Rausch. In attempting to approximate how Schumann might have heard his music the string players used gut in lieu of metal strings and bows appropriate for the 19th century music.

Pieces on the program were by Schumann, Paganini, Joachim, Liszt and Brahms, and included solo piano selections thoughtfully performed by Festival co-director Eric Zivian and Jeffrey LaDeur. The string players featured violinist Jennifer Frautschi and included violinist Rachel Wong (a 2017 Festival Apprentice), violist Liana Bérubé, and Festival co-director and cellist Tanya Tomkins. Mr. Zivian joined the group for Brahms’ Op. 34 F Minor Quintet.

Mr. Zivian opened the program with Schumann’s Valse Allemande and Paganini sections from Carnaval, Op 9. The temperamental forte-piano, which requires multiple tunings during the course of a day, yielded to Zivian’s will and served as a wonderful concert beginning. The pianist’s idiosyncratic approach to playing coaxed a warm sonority from the fortepiano in these lighter introductory pieces. It is difficult to describe how the forte-piano differs from modern instruments but the word “muted” comes to mind. Nevertheless, when necessary Mr. Zivian and later Mr. LaDeur were both able to bring out hidden capabilities of the instrument when a fierce approach was required.

Next was Ms. Frautschi’s rendering of Paganini’s lyrical Caprice, Opus 2, No 13, in B-flat Major, with Mr. Zivian at the piano. The use of gut strings provided a softer and in some ways a more pleasurable sound compared to their modern metal cousins. Ms. Frautschi’s playing is filled with emotion and supported by masterful technique as demonstrated by her facility on the fingerboard and artful bowing. Her playing was graceful throughout and brought new insight to this lesser played Caprice.

Mr. Zivian returned to perform Schumann’s Op. 10, No. 6, one of the Six Studies after Paganini Caprices. While obviously written with a tip of the hat to Paganini, the E Major piece was nevertheless very much Schumann. Here the performer was able to bring out more of the forte-piano’s character as well as demonstrate his interpretive skills and technical excellence. The audience seemed especially appreciative.

The Zivian and Frautschi duo joined again for a delightful romp through Joseph Joachim’s Romance in C Major, Op. 20. Their give and take ensemble playing was an elegant success. Ms. Frautschi then played a Paganini warhorse, the 24th Caprice from his Op. 1. She chose a judicious tempo (many virtuosos tend to play this memorable Caprice too fast). Taking the tempo down a notch allowed the artist to reveal to the audience the piece’s more subtle aspects which made her interpretation a crowd pleaser.

At a point when there might have been an intermission a rich musical offering of Liszt’s music by Mr. LaDeur wowed the audience. He started out gently with three pieces from Années de Pélerinage Première Anée (Suisse), S. 160: Au lac de Wallenstadt, Pastorale, and Au Bord d’une source (At The Spring). Here the San Francisco-based pianist revealed his lyrical artistry. His easy natural playing style was a perfect match for these sonorous compositions that were written between 1835 and 1852. One only needed to close one’s eyes to be transported into Liszt’s contemplative nature scenes in Switzerland.

Then followed Liszt’s transcription of Paganini’s 24th Caprice, the last of the Hungarian master’s set of six from 1851. It was a great contrast to Ms. Frautschi’s offering. Liszt of course commands piano pyrotechnics and Mr. LaDeur’s technical prowess was up to the challenge. His playing was secure and powerful and in listening one might have forgotten he was playing a light action, limited sonority instrument from an earlier era. That said, Mr. LaDeur did not shy from bringing a sensitive interpretation of the piece’s quieter moments.

In pre-performance remarks Mr. LaDeur alerted the audience to the fact that his final work, Schumann’s Toccata in C Major, Op. 7, was the type of piece that put any pianist brave enough to attempt it through the wringer. It can be said that as harrowing as it must be to perform the piece, this pianist’s command of his instrument was such that the artistic result was never in doubt. Mr. LaDeur’s playing was a joy to experience, and his domination of double notes and octave passagework was a fitting goodbye for Schumann as the Festival’s artistic honoree.

The concluding Brahms’s Quintet from 1865 provided a wonderful composition to end the program and the VOM Festival. Here the ensemble playing of period instruments brought the listener as close as possible to the sounds of an earlier time. There was but one brief glitch, out of the control of the musicians, when Mr. Zivian was forced to raise his arm stopping the piece dead in its tracks. It appeared that a rod running to one of the pedals of the temperamental pianoforte became disengaged. However, Mr. Zivian quickly bent down under the keyboard and remedied the pesky problem.

The group proceeded as if nothing happened, keeping their composure, and clearly were in synch with each other. Cohesive playing during the difficult and broadly lyrical slow movement was captivating, and one movement led into another seamlessly and it was sonically and visually apparent that the musicians were having a great time performing the muscular piece.

The third season of the growing Valley of the Moon Musical Festival came to a splendid close.