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Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
Chamber
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the ...
Symphony
CONDUCTOR PLAYOFFS BEGIN IN SANTA ROSA
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 08, 2017
The Santa Rosa Symphony is calling 2017-18 “a choice season” because the next few months offer the audience and the symphony’s board of directors a chance to choose a new conductor from a pool of five candidates. Each candidate will lead a three-concert weekend set this fall and winter, with a final...
Recital
PIANISTIC COMMAND IN SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, October 08, 2017
Nikolay Khozyainov’s Oct. 8 debut at the Green Music Center’s Schroeder Hall was one of those rare moments in a young artist’s career when a performance approaches perfection. From the opening notes of Beethoven’s A-Flat Major Sonata (Op. 110) through a delightful recital ending transcription, the ...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Valley of the Moon Music Festival / Sunday, July 30, 2017
Cynthia Freivogal and Monica Huggett, violin; Tanya Tomkins, cello; Eric Zivian, piano. Apprentices TBA

Violinist Cynthia Freivogal

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 three bucolic Op. 22 Romances for Violin were beautifully played by Cynthia Freivogal and pianist Jennifer Lee, with the highlight the opening heart-on-sleeve andante. This was a romantic interpretation laced with subtle ritards and a beguiling bantamweight ending. The somber following allegretto was succeeded by the most Robert Schumannesque of the set, with surging romanticism. Ms. Freivogal played from score and clearly has a penchant for the ten-minute work composed in 1842.

Schumann’s third Quartet in A Major, Op. 41, No. 3, closed the first half in a compelling performance by four of the Festival’s apprentices – violinists Maria Romero and Rachell Wong, violist Andrew Gonzalez and cellist Ana Kim. Mr. Kim and Mr. Gonzalez pushed the first movement’s “question and answer” refrains and opening ascending phrase (known to pianists from Beethoven’s E Flat “Hunt” Piano Sonata). This was in sharp contrast to the insistent drama of the assai agitato and the songful and understated playing of the adagio. Here Ms. Romero’s colorful playing began most of the phrases, and the ensemble was always clear. The last chord of the adagio was played without string vibrato.

In the finale the music from 1842 had a sprightly and lively character, played charmingly with just one hiccup at an entrance, and the many thematic repetitions had pleasant differences. The conclusion had energy and flair. The audience in the Hanna Boys Center auditorium gave robust applause.

Arguably the most popular piano trio before the public. Mendelssohn’s D Minor occupied the entire second half and the reading was a mixed bag. Perhaps the lack of a conclusive whole was due to that popularity, as the performances in one’s mind usually have the sound of a modern concert grand and steel stringed cellos and violins.

Pianist Eric Zivian, the preeminent fortepianist in Northern California, dominated much of the performance. Mr. Zivian’s scales (in a scale-heavy work) were fast and tended to take the musical leadership away from cellist Tanya Tomkins and violinist Monica Huggett. Piano action key dip is at about 1/4" (3/8" in modern pianos) in Mr. Zivian’s reconstructed Mendelssohn-era 1841 grand, and he made the most of thematic voice leading and rubatos. His forte chords sounded well, especially when juxtaposed to the gut strings of the cello and violin. The opening movement had many beguiling moments, and at some Ms. Tomkins raised her right foot way off the floor for perhaps quiet emphasis. Her playing throughout was chaste but seldom muscular.

The famous andante in B-Flat major was charmingly played and Ms. Huggett’s solo after the opening theme in the piano part was elegant. But for much of the work she could be seen playing but not heard. Her proficient playing was frequently underpowered, and it’s hard to envision this musician playing standard virtuoso violin works (e.g., Respighi Sonata, Sibelius Concerto) in a large hall. That said, I presume such compositions are of little artistic interest to her, and her musical preferences are solidly rooted in Baroque music. The interplay of voices in the brisk scherzo was lucid, and the ensemble of the racehorse finale was exciting. Here again the piano part, even lacking a modern instrument’s sonority, was felicitous (glossy arpeggios and legato octaves) but often covered Ms. Tomkins cello part.

One should never equate the sound of these period instruments with an acquired taste. This performance with these splendid musicians had many auspicious moments, and proved again that a vintage work like the Mendelssohn D Minor can absorb many valid and compelling conceptions.

This review was written from hearing and seeing the performance video, kindly provided by Festival Public Relations Director John Hill.