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Chamber
UNEXPECTED ARENSKY AND MENDELSSOHN BY THE NAVARRO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
The 100 people entering Schroeder Hall Feb. 17 for a Trio Navarro concert were handed a program that appeared to feature two popular piano trios, Mendelssohn and Arensky. But continuing the Navarro’s tradition of repertoire exploration, the pieces were not the usual first Mendelssohn and first Aren...
Symphony
MENDELSSOHN'S SCOTTISH SAVES THE EVENING IN SRS WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Monday, February 11, 2019
The audience entering Weill Hall for Santa Rosa Symphony concerts Feb. 9-11 were presented with a program that on first glance appeared a curious patchwork – a great symphony mixed with a seldom heard concerto and two disparate overtures, and a guest conductor unknown locally. Monday night’s concer...
Recital
INTRIGUING BELL-HAYWOOD RECITAL BEFORE FULL HOUSE IN WEILL HALL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, February 08, 2019
A big portion of the capacity audience in Weill Hall February 8th came to hear violinist Joshua Bell’s virtuosity, and were treated as well to splendid playing from Sam Haywood, Mr. Bell’s regular pianist since 2010. The duo performed three engaging sonatas, highlighted by Mr. Bell’s sterling techn...
Symphony
TRIPLE PLAY UKIAH SYMPHONY CONCERT AND TCHAIKOVSKY SERENADE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Over the years the Ukiah Symphony’s concerts have been in the Classical Sonoma Calendar sections, but rarely has this Orchestra, now in its 39th season, had a full winter season concert review. The provocative Jan. 27 program in Mendocino College’s Center Theater seemed a good reason to reacquaint ...
Symphony
JACKSON THEATER WELCOMES A NEW RESIDENT ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Moving to a permanent new performance venue can be a perilous undertaking for an orchestra, with different acoustics, the loyal audience finding the new spot and infrastructure challenges of lighting and lobby and backstage operations. In their first concert Jan. 26 in Windsor’s Jackson Theater the...
Symphony
ECLECTIC PASSIONATE PROGRAMMING AT MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 26, 2019
The Marin Symphony’s second Masterworks concert of the 2018-19 season featured works by John Adams, Sibelius and Brahms, a masterful assembly. In a spoken introduction before the program’s first half, conductor Alasdair Neale primed the audience for the “terra incognita” of Adams’ The Chairman Dance...
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...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Valley of the Moon Music Festival / Saturday, May 12, 2018
Tanya Tomkins, cello; Eric Zivian, piano; Kyle Stegall, tenor; Joseph Maile, violin

Pianist Erick Zivian and Tenor Kyle Stegall (John Hefti Photo)

FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018

It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s resident Navarro Trio gave a compelling reading of the work from 1827.

Surprisingly, the differences were greater than the similarities. The estimable Navarro uses a modern concert grand and the violin and cello are fitted with steel strings. The VOM trio uses a piano from Mendelssohn’s era, and the bowed instruments have gut or synthetic strings. Many feel these types of strings have a dark and richer sound than steel-core strings, but there is seldom a consensus from listeners. Also there are seasoned music lovers that are not enamored of the period piano sound.

Violinist Joseph Maile took the place of the frequently performing VOM violinist Monica Huggett, and with pianist Erick Zivian and cellist Tanya Tomkins the Op. 99 work unfolded with Schubertian exuberance and brisk tempos. From the usual critic’s seat way back in Schroeder the cello and piano lacked projection and distinct instrumental lines, and no treble partials could be heard from the piano. So different from the Hall’s modern pianos. I’ll sit closer next time music is played with a small ensemble of period instruments, and presumably hear more.

A highlight of the performance came in the andante un pocco mossowhere the majestic theme first stated by Ms. Tomkins was heartfelt and spiritual, and her duos with Mr. Maile were splendid, with delicacy foremost. The scherzo received a reading more intimate than experienced in most Schubert scherzos, and the finale rondo allegro underscored fetching folk-song melodies.

Tenor Kyle Stegall and Mr. Zivian performed an extended group of Schubert songs, with a short Schumann piece, that constituted the entire first half. Mr. Stegall has sung at the VOM summer festivals and has a penetrating, elastic and clear tenor but at this recital lacked the round warm sound of iconic German lieder tenors. The opening Geheimes (D. 719) was perfection, with deft swelling on individual notes, and morphed into the furious tempo of Versunken, D. 715. The singer had the score but infrequently glanced at it, preferring to animate each song with varied facial expression and change in tone color. The postlude to a low piano note in Versunken was lovely.

These songs were written on Goethe’s poetry, and are less familiar than the popular Die Winterreise and Die Schöne Müllerin cycles. But sonic and dramatic contrasts were everywhere present in this masterful recital, from the slow and hesitant Erster Verlust (D. 226) and the stentorian Freudvall und Liedvoll, D. 201, to the chaste Nahe des Geliebten (D. 162) with different but mesmerizing repeats and phrases sung at half voice.

In the next section the performance of An Schwager Kronos (D. 369, and a Fischer-Dieskau specialty) was echt Schubert singing, and Liebhaber in allen Gestalten (D. 588) had more sonority than any song before, with refined rubato playing from Mr. Zivian.

Of course the performance of the famous Erlkönig (D. 328) generated excitement for the audience of 100, as the drama mounted in each of the eight stanzas and Mr. Zivian’s fast repeated chords hammered out perfect support for the tragic story of the fleeing child dying in his father’s arms. Mr. Stegall looked furtively around the stage during the increasing vocal histrionics, giving vocal emphasis (shrill at moments) to the story’s interplay of speeding horse, two riders and approaching lethal menace.

No encore was offered.