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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...
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...
Symphony
PEACE AND LOVE FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 04, 2018
Before the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 4 performance of Leonard Bernstein’s “Symphonic Dances from West Side Story,” Symphony CEO Alan Silow took a moment to acknowledge the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack and to observe that music offers a more peaceful and loving view of the world. Mr. ...
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.