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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 / 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.