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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 / Sunday, July 22, 2018
Augusta McKay Lodge and Susanna Foster, violin; Lauren Nelson, viola; Tanya Tomkins and Madeleine Bouissou, cello; Eric Zivian, Jeffrey LaDeur and Christian De Luca, piano

C. De Luca and M. Bouissou (A. Wasserman Photo)

INNOVATIVE CHAMBER WORKS IN HANNA CENTER CONCERT

by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, July 22, 2018

The Valley of the Moon Music Festival presented a July 22 concert featuring three giants: Haydn, Schubert and Schumann, composers who altered music of their time with creative innovations and artistic vision.

In the fourth season the Festival’s theme this year is “Vienna in Transition”, and VOM Festival co-founders Cellist Tanya Tomkins and pianist Eric Zivian have created an environment for professional musicians and apprentices to explore masterworks using historic instruments. The periods explored during several summers range from the Baroque, Classical and remarkably also to the Romantic era. Instruments include the fortepiano, strings, woodwinds and also singers. Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center Auditorium is an pleasant venue and local wineries provide wine tasting, making the atmosphere social and festive.

The innovative program commenced with Haydn’s Trio in E Major (H. XV:28), with performers Augusta McKay Lodge, violin, Ms. Tomkins and Mr. Zivian playing a Mozart piano copy. Haydn as innovator had to generate musical ideas on his own because he was isolated at the rural Esterhazy palace in Hungary. The first movement of the trio, Allegro moderato, starts with a smile as all play an unusual pizzicato theme. The music continues with delightful surprises and clever musical wit. The playing was clear, elegant and warmhearted. The second movement opens with an unusually extended piano solo in a dark Baroque style with dramatic right hand obligato melodies covering wide ranges above the bass continuo. In a surprise development, the violin and cello join and reinforce the theme, then leave the fortepiano to complete its journey alone. The playing in finale was a rondo full of light and joy, flirtatious, sometimes teasing. Ms. Lodge’s violin part added rich tone to the cello’s warmth and Zivian played with sparkle, drama and joy. It was a rewarding experience to hear Haydn on these historic instruments.

Schubert composed his Allegro in A Minor, D. 947 (“Lebenssturme”) for piano four hands. Jeffrey LaDeur and Mr. Zivian played this monumental piece on a larger early piano, built in 1841, which has an expanded range from the Mozart-ear instrument. Schubert was a great innovator in form and harmony and virtuoso pianist Alfred Brendel said Schubert was like a “sleepwalker” in harmony progressions that many the Hall’s audience seemed to follow in wonder and belief. This duet strives to be orchestral with its many layers, from poignant melodies to stormy outbursts. The fortepiano was certainly pushed to dynamic extremes and the partners sensitively evoked the mixtures of Viennese pomp and elegance, with the intimate moments juxtaposed with drama and even melodramatic flourishes.

After intermission four young musicians who are Festival apprentices shared from the stage their musical thoughts about the program. Performing Schumann’s E Flat Op. 47 piano quartet were Susanna Foster, violin; violist Lauren Nelson; Madeleine Bouissou, cello, and pianist Christian de Luca. Schumann often broke musical barriers and forged new forms. His compositional daring is remarkable. Constantly changing perspectives can leave one bewildered and intrigued, and always engaged.

The opening sostenuto movement is like sounds being born out of a mist and then the bursts of energetic chords with fast piano solo passages emerge. Here, the instrumental balance was sometimes weighted so strongly to the strings that the beautiful virtuoso piano writing was left in the background. This was very different from modern instrument performances in which one often hears the piano as one complete powerful entity in contrast to the string trio as another entity. This performance sometimes had extremes of rubato that tended to cause distortions of rhythm. The playing the scherzo was wild and sizzled. A very brisk tempo sacrificed clarity to effective diabolic shapes and flickers. In the trios, Ms. Nelson’s viola was beautifully resonant and provided a rich center.

The andante from the 1842 piece, renowned for its romantic melodies, was played with fine ensemble, sometimes delightfully understated, with string sonority emerging gloriously.This was followed by the vivace finale. The quartet was well balanced and played with spirited energy, clear articulation and well-crafted phrasing. It was joyous performance and elicited sustained applause and bravos from the audience!

Nicki Bell contributed to this review.