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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 / 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.