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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
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.