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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
Valley of the Moon Music Festival / Sunday, July 15, 2018
Marc Schachman, oboe; Tekla Cunningham and Carla Moore, violin; Kati Kyme and Toma Iliev, viola; William Skeen and Tanya Tomkins, cello; Eric Zivian, piano

Festival Musicians July 15 Playing Mozart Quintet (Voices of Music Photo)

VANHAL QUARTET AT VOM FESTIVAL DISCOVERY AT HANNA CENTER

by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 15, 2018

A near-capacity crowd of 220 filled the Sonoma Hanna Boys Center Auditorium July 15 for the opening concert of the fourth Valley of the Moon Music Festival. This Festival presents gems of the Classical and early Romantic periods performed on instruments of the composer’s era, which presents a few challenges and many rewards to the modern ear.

Festival founders and co-directors Tanya Tomkins and Eric Zivian inserted an unfamiliar treasure by Johann Baptist Vanhal between two familiar works by his younger contemporaries: Beethoven’s C-Sharp Minor Sonata, Op. 27, No. 2, and Mozart’s Viola Quintet in G Minor from 1787. All three men overlapped in Vienna during its prominence as the musical center of Europe.

We’re accustomed to hearing Beethoven on the modern piano, with its long tonal decay and brilliant resonance, so hearing Mr. Zivian play Beethoven on the small Mozart-era piano brought something fresh to savor. As Prof. Nicolas Mathew explained in a pre-concert lecture, music of the day was performed in small rooms to small groups.

They would have found Mr. Zivian’s instrument’s crystalline notes and lightness of sound perfect, but even in the medium-sized Hanna Auditorium, his sensitive interpretation felt intimate, expressing the sonata’s profound emotions. It was written in 1801 in an improvisatory style (“Sonata quasi una fantasia” is Beethoven’s title) when the composer was experiencing the anguish and fear of impending deafness. The iconic first movement (adagio sostenuto) that prompted a music critic to suggest the sobriquet “Moonlight,” has the rhythm and mood of a funeral march. Mr. Zivian played with delicacy at a tempo that seemed just right, holding the damper pedal (operated by the knee) throughout as Beethoven directed in his score, creating a subtle drone of sound that heightened the lament’s poignancy.

The second allegretto movement was almost insouciant in mood, though intimation of loss lurked at the edges. In the third movement, presto agitato, Mr. Zivian maximized Beethoven’s anguish and fury. Every note sounded with clarity; there was no muddiness of sound. Toward the end of the movement, after two low bass chords that seemed to express hopelessness, the pianist paused for a few beats. Then energy returned with the final furious runs and the end was like a pledge not to give up, shouted angrily into the wind.

The Vanhal Quartet for oboe and strings in F Major, Op. 7, No. 1, should be performed more often. It’s a celebration of great beauty by a prolific composer who was once the toast of Vienna—someone Mozart emulated and Haydn admired. The ensemble of Marc Schachman, oboe, violinist Carla Moore, Kati Kyme, viola, and William Skeen, cello, blended seamlessly and generously. The quartet is in four movements, and in the first allegro moderato a sweet, lilting melody is introduced which the oboe picks up and carries forward. Close harmonies follow in duets and ensemble playing. The second movement is simply glorious, one of the loveliest I’ve heard ever, and through which Mr. Schachman’s oboe line wove a spell. The third menuetto-triomovement began as a straitlaced dance, moving into something free-flowing and pastoral, with especially lovely pairings of oboe and violin. The fourth movement (presto) was a startling and harmonious explosion of sound. The appreciative audience, presumably most of whom were hearing Vanhal’s music for the first time, brought the ensemble back for three curtain calls.

A long intermission followed. The audience then heard Mozart’s String Quintet (Viola Quintet) in G Minor, K. 516. Before beginning, the players – Toma Iliev and Kati Kyme, violas; Tekla Cunningham and Carla Moore, violins; and cellist Tomkins – joined Prof. Mathew in speaking from the stage about the quintet form. Ms. Moore commented that this quintet is orchestral, with the extra viola filling out the sound and Ms. Tomkins revealed that the 1787 piece, so full of pathos and emotion, is rife with intimations of death and mourning.

The first movement, allegro, contains a plaintive theme that begins in unison and then passes from violin to violas to cello. Ms. Cunningham’s violin playing was unutterably sweet and rich, and Ms. Tomkins’ expressive use of rubato throughout the movement gave a poignant and emotional grounding to the music. The balance between the instruments was perfect and clear as they blended and then gave phrases and themes to one another. Particularly thrilling were the duets between Ms. Kyme and Mr. Iliev. The second movement Minuetto was played dramatically, with lyrical passages sliced by violent, accented chords. The third movement (adagio ma non troppo) is a funereal lament. Ms. Cunningham’s playing took the lead, and the quartet in turn followed. The depth of sorrow in this interpretation was heartrending.

The concluding movement, adagio-allegro, began with a lovely singing and deftly phrased lament by Ms. Cunningham. Surprisingly, the mood lightened and at the end the key shifted into G major rather than returning to the plaintive G minor, so that the piece ends on a positive and consoling affirmation.

It was an inspired and inspiring performance, and many in the audience gave a standing ovation. Following multiple curtain calls members of the audience and musicians met for gratis food and wine in the Center’s sunny patio.