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Chamber
PERFORMER AS PROMOTER: CLARA SCHUMANN AND MUSICAL SALONS CLOSE VOM FESTIVAL
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Sunday, July 28, 2019
The July 28 closing performance of the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival could have been subtitled "Friends", as it was devoted to works by both Clara and Robert Schumann, and those of their friends and protégés Brahms and virtuoso violinist Joseph Joachim, with whom Clara toured extensively...
Chamber
ROMANTIC CHAMBER WORKS HIGHLIGHT VOM FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, July 27, 2019
Now in its 5th season the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival presented July 27 a concert titled “My Brilliant Sister,” featuring Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel’s compositions for combinations of voice, fortepiano and strings. Fanny and her brother Felix were close, and Felix occasionally published ...
Symphony
ROMANTIC DREAMS AT THE MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kayleen Asbo
Wednesday, July 24, 2019
Romanticism, contrary to many popular perceptions, wasn’t simply about diving into the habitat of the heart. Romanticism began as a literary movement that elevated the power of nature as a transcendent force and sought with keen nostalgia to rediscover the wisdom of the past. The Romantics in both l...
Chamber
CHAUSSON CONCERTO SHINES IN A VISIONARY'S SALON
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, July 21, 2019
Ernest Chausson’s four-movement Concerto in D Major for Violin, Piano, and String Quartet (1891) is neither concerto nor sonata nor symphony, but it somehow manages to be all three, especially when played with fire and conviction by an accomplished soloist. Those incendiary and emotional elements w...
Chamber
EUROPEAN SALON MUSIC CAPTIVATES AT VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Sunday, July 21, 2019
Two stunning programs of 19th and 20th century chamber music were presented on July 21 and 28 as part of the Valley of the Moon Music Festival at the Hanna Center in Sonoma. Festival founders and directors pianist Eric Zivian and cellist Tanya Tompkins were both on hand to contribute brilliantly at ...
Chamber
ECLECTIC INSTRUMENTAL COMBINATIONS IN VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, July 20, 2019
A Lovely summer afternoon in Sonoma Valley, an excellent small concert hall, enthusiastic audience, exciting musicians and creative programming with interesting story lines. All these were combined July 20 at a Valley of the Moon Festival concert titled “An Italian in Paris.” This is the fifth seaso...
Opera
'ELIXIR' A WELCOME TONIC IN SPRIGHTLY ANNUAL MMF OPERA
by Terry McNeill
Friday, July 19, 2019
In most of the Mendocino Music Festival’s 33 seasons a single evening is given over to a staged opera, with bare bones sets, lighting, costumes, minimal cast and short length. No Wagner or Verdi here, no multiple acts and complicated production demands. Light and frothy are the usual, and so it wa...
Recital
PUNGENT WALTZES AND VIRTUOSITY IN LADEUR'S SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, July 17, 2019
San Francisco based pianist Jeffrey LaDeur has become one of the most sought-after North Bay virtuosi, and cemented that reputation July 17 in a short but eclectic recital in Santa Rosa’s Spring Lake Village Chamber Music Series. Before 140 in the Village’s auditorium Mr. LaDeur began with Schubert...
Choral and Vocal
NOBLE BRAHMS REQUIEM PERFORMANCE CLOSES SONOMA BACH'S SEASON
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, June 01, 2019
Sonoma Bach, conducted by Robert Worth, presented a truly grand finale to their 2018-19 "Light Out of Darkness" season in two sold out Schroeder Hall performances June 1 and 2. The program "A Human Requiem" was received rapturously with a well-deserved standing ovation for the main work, Brahms' ...
Chamber
THREE SONG CYCLES HIGHLIGHT VIBRANT SLV RECITAL
by Pamela Hicks-Gailey
Wednesday, May 08, 2019
An ambitious recital of vocal and piano music was presented May 8 at Santa Rosa’s Spring Lake Village by mezzo-soprano Kindra Scharich and pianist Jeffrey LaDeur. The duo engaged the enthusiastic audience with scholarly friendliness and artistry in performances of Beethoven's short cycle of six song...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Mastercard Performance Series / Saturday, February 03, 2018
Renée Fleming, soprano; Helmut Höll, piano

Soprano Renée Fleming

A COMPLETE ARTISTIC PACKAGE IN FLEMING'S WEILL HALL RECITAL

by Vaida Falconbridge and Mary Beard
Saturday, February 03, 2018

The diva Renée Fleming strode on the Weill Hall stage Feb. 2 in her first couture gown of the evening, a gray and swirling cream strapless sheath with flamboyant coordinating stole. For this concert, Ms. Fleming stayed to somewhat lighter fare, foregoing heavier dramatic and coloratura arias for a variety of songs and arias that allowed her personality to shine and showcased a wide palette of vocal colors and emotions. She delighted the sold out Hall, pulling the audience into the singer’s pain, laughter, and also drawing a tear or two in an inspirational program.

Opening with two Handel arias, Ms. Fleming displayed perfect legato and a warm simplicity, and several well-articulated trills during “Ombra mai fu” from the opera Xerses, and then took a long and unusual appoggiatura (from below) into the high note at the penultimate cadence, providing a novel musical treat in the first selection. Second was “Bel piacere e godere” (from Agrippina), a showy and agile paean to the delights of true love.

Ms. Fleming then introduced a group of seven of her favorite Brahms songs, with wide contrasts in tempi, dynamics, mood, and variety of texts. Highlights included “Mondnacht,” with lovely dreamy floating pianissimos; “Meine Liebe ist grun” (Op. 63,No. 6), an impassioned text of exultant love written by Felix Schumann; and the humor of “Vergebliches Standchen” where the singer plays the roles of both the young man courting and his coquettish rejecting lady-love. Ms. Fleming acted each role quite distinctly, one from the other, telling a delightful tale. The speed of the song made the piano accompaniment more dramatic than usual. One special gem in the group was Brahms’ “Lullaby” (Op. 49, No. 4) which many might be tempted to think of as a ‘warhorse’, or otherwise forgettable. However, one would be hard put to hear it more artfully and tenderly performed than it was in this recital.

Closing the first half were two remarkable songs by the American composer Caroline Shaw, who in 2013 won the Pulitzer Prize for Music, the youngest recipient ever. Ms. Fleming premiered these two songs in Carnegie Hall. The evocative “Aurora Borealis” painted the starkness of a dark winter night sky with many straight tones, paired with lush tones depicting the colors of the aurora borealis, and it featured a fairly lengthy and haunting melisma at the end. “Bed of Letters,” about a relationship, also unexpectedly swelled into a melismatic improvisation on the word “bloom” three fourths of the way into the song, and then ended with an extended low-pitched denouement, becoming a perfect showcase for Ms. Fleming’s rightfully famous rich, warm and resonant low notes.

Hartmut Höll was a wonderful pianist in exemplary ensemble with Ms. Fleming all evening.

The first attraction of the recital’s second half was another gorgeous gown, this time a very sparkly lilac, purple and charcoal sheath with matching duster, which very evidently pleased the audience, after which the always-elegant Ms. Fleming charmingly confessed, “I like clothes applause!” The singing featured a distinctive French grouping, with two chansons by Gabriel Fauré, an aria by (mostly) pop artist Rufus Wainwright, and a charming Oscar Straus operetta tune made famous by the early 20th-century French singer/actress Yvonne Printemps.

Set to poems by Paul-Marie Verlaine, the Fauré songs were alternately hypnotic (“Clair de lune,” Op. 46, No. 2) and playful (“Mandoline,” Op. 58). Both are well-known selections, and in fact are frequently sung by voice students. Ms. Fleming’s interpretation was masterful in her phrasing and musicality, choosing tempi, coloring and dynamics that make these songs sound uncommonly fresh and beautiful. “Les feux d’artifice t’appellent” (The Fireworks are Calling) by Wainwright, from his opera Prima Donna, cast a special spell with a soft and constantly moving piano accompaniment shimmering under the vocal line. The audience responded particularly well to the teasing, seductive “Je t’aime quand meme” (I love you, all the same) from Les Trois Valses (1935) by Straus. Ms. Fleming sang part of the song turned around and facing the audience in the choir loft, as well as turning to the balconies on the sides, including everyone in the merriment.

Music theater was next, with two songs chosen as a tribute to singer Barbara Cook, who was a neighbor of Ms. Fleming’s before her recent death. “Till There Was You” from The Music Man was simple and yet stunning, and again Ms. Fleming took a unique high note at the end for an extravagant finish. She needed audience participation on “I Whistle a Happy Tune” (The King and I) since she confessed that she could not whistle herself. The audience was asked to whistle along in certain parts, and luckily there were enough whistlers in the crowd to sound pretty good!

Concluding the program were two Dvorak songs, sung in Czech, both of which were delivered with great feeling and displaying that glorious, creamy tone for which she is so renowned. The two, “Songs My Mother Taught Me” and “Song to the Moon” from the opera “Rusalka,” are specialties of the singer. Anyone in the audience who did not previously know the Rusalka aria had surely included it in their list of favorites by the end of the concert.

Standing ovations immediately broke out, which led into two popular encores: Puccini’s “O mio babbino caro” from the opera “Gianni Schicchi,” and “I Could Have Danced All Night” from Lerner and Loewe’s Broadway hit My Fair Lady. She invited the audience to sing with her on the second chorus, and for several minutes it was the largest choir in northern California.

And to top that off, many members of the audience happily left Weill Hall able to say, “I have sung with Renée Fleming!”