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Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s Sonoma Overt...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
Chamber
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, perfor...
Symphony
AMERICAN CLASSICS SPARKLE UNDER KAHANE’S BATON
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Jeffrey Kahane, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s former conductor, returned to the Weill Hall podium on Saturday night, and the results were expectedly wonderful. The concert of American classics was by turns playful (Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”), emotional (Barber’s violin concerto) and triumphant (...
Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
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.