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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
UNEXPECTED ARENSKY AND MENDELSSOHN BY THE NAVARRO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
The 100 people entering Schroeder Hall Feb. 17 for a Trio Navarro concert were handed a program that appeared to feature two popular piano trios, Mendelssohn and Arensky. But continuing the Navarro’s tradition of repertoire exploration, the pieces were not the usual first Mendelssohn and first Aren...
Recital
GLOVER'S ECLECTIC PROGRAMMING HIGHLIGHT'S CINNABAR RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
Daniel Glover is arguably the busiest virtuoso pianist in the San Francisco Bay area, but rarely is heard in North Bay concerts. So 90 local pianophiles were anxious to hear him Feb. 17 in Petaluma’s charming small Cinnabar Theater, and they were rewarded with an eclectic program of sometimes unfam...
Symphony
MENDELSSOHN'S SCOTTISH SAVES THE EVENING IN SRS WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Monday, February 11, 2019
The audience entering Weill Hall for Santa Rosa Symphony concerts Feb. 9-11 were presented with a program that on first glance appeared a curious patchwork – a great symphony mixed with a seldom heard concerto and two disparate overtures, and a guest conductor unknown locally. Monday night’s concer...
Recital
INTRIGUING BELL-HAYWOOD RECITAL BEFORE FULL HOUSE IN WEILL HALL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, February 08, 2019
A big portion of the capacity audience in Weill Hall February 8th came to hear violinist Joshua Bell’s virtuosity, and were treated as well to splendid playing from Sam Haywood, Mr. Bell’s regular pianist since 2010. The duo performed three engaging sonatas, highlighted by Mr. Bell’s sterling techn...
Symphony
TRIPLE PLAY UKIAH SYMPHONY CONCERT AND TCHAIKOVSKY SERENADE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Over the years the Ukiah Symphony’s concerts have been in the Classical Sonoma Calendar sections, but rarely has this Orchestra, now in its 39th season, had a full winter season concert review. The provocative Jan. 27 program in Mendocino College’s Center Theater seemed a good reason to reacquaint ...
Symphony
JACKSON THEATER WELCOMES A NEW RESIDENT ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Moving to a permanent new performance venue can be a perilous undertaking for an orchestra, with different acoustics, the loyal audience finding the new spot and infrastructure challenges of lighting and lobby and backstage operations. In their first concert Jan. 26 in Windsor’s Jackson Theater the...
Symphony
ECLECTIC PASSIONATE PROGRAMMING AT MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 26, 2019
The Marin Symphony’s second Masterworks concert of the 2018-19 season featured works by John Adams, Sibelius and Brahms, a masterful assembly. In a spoken introduction before the program’s first half, conductor Alasdair Neale primed the audience for the “terra incognita” of Adams’ The Chairman Dance...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Valley of the Moon Music Festival / Sunday, July 29, 2018
Monica Huggett, Sara Bleile and Susannah Foster, violin; Tanya Tomkins, cello; Kate Van Orden, bassoon; Anthony Manzo, double bass; Sadie Glass, horn; Eric Hoeprich, clarinet; Christian De Luca, piano

Brahms' G Minor Piano Quartet Performance July 29 at the Hanna Center

PASSIONATE BRAHMS-SCHOENBERG MUSIC CLOSES VOM FESTIVAL SUMMER

by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 29, 2018

An extraordinary program of chamber music by Brahms and Schoenberg attracted a capacity crowd to the Valley of the Moon Music Festival’s final concert July 29th in Sonoma’s Hanna Center. It opened with a richly expressive reading by Festival Laureate violinist Rachell Wong and pianist Jeffrey LaDeur of Brahms’ Scherzo in C Minor from the 1853 F.A.E. Sonata. Ms. Wong’s playing was especially sensitive, and paired with Mr. LaDeur’s clarion pianism, it was a real treat.

For the second selection, the Festival co-directors chose Arnold Schoenberg’s emotional tone poem Verklärte Nacht, (Transfigured Night), Op. 4, composed in three weeks in Vienna in 1899. Schoenberg greatly admired Brahms and chose a string sextet—the string quartet expanded by two that Brahms experimented with—for his stunning late-Romantic work. There is a popular version for string orchestra.

The composer’s inspiration was a narrative poem by the German writer Richard Dehmel (1863-1920). The poem presents a lovers’ dilemma: a young woman confesses during a night walk with her beloved that she’s pregnant by another man. Her trepidation is great as she awaits a response, while he fights to bring his emotions under control. When he answers, it is to say that he will accept the child as his own. The night is transfigured. Above them, the moon shimmers a blessing. All of this is subtly expressed in the music.

The ensemble was coached and led by violinist Owen Dalby, and most of the musicians had not previously played the work. But Mr. Dalby guided them masterfully, and all were superb.

Through the piece’s tremulous ascents and descents, crescendos and diminuendos, its deep shadows and ethereal lights, it was enthralling experience. The musicians breathed as one. Violists Lauren Nelson and Andrew Gonzalez played with a golden tone; Tanya Tomkins and Madeleine Bouissou’s cello sound was warmly burnished, and Mr. Dalby’s and Rachell Wong’s violins were luminous and emotional. Toward the end, Mr. Dalby played a solo of great sweetness over the rhythmic underpinning of the other musicians. When the music ended, the audience remained silent, not wanting to break the spell, until Mr. Dalby and the others lowered their bows. The listeners then rose to express their gratitude.

After an intermission, the audience returned for the culminating work, Brahms’ Piano Quartet No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 25, written in 1861. This exploratory masterpiece still challenges the listener after 150 years. Written in traditional structure (allegro –intermezzo – andante con moto – rondo alla zingarese: presto), it altered many traditions of chamber music. Open-ended motifs are introduced, explored briefly and abandoned to make way for other motifs that seem to owe no allegiance to any but themselves. On first hearing it isn’t an easy work to initially grasp. One could consider it a whirlwind tour of Brahms’ music vocabulary.
The most dominant flavor is Hungarian, particularly in the second and fourth movements. The fourth (rondo alla zingarese) is a wild gypsy dance alive with mixed rhythms—sensual, jumpy and romantic. The Mendelssohn-era piano and the violin, viola and cello with gut strings and horsehair bows, achieved a perfect sonorous balance, and the musicians—Eric Zivian, Mr. Dalby, Mr. Gonzalez and Ms. Tomkins—were a consummate ensemble. After the last notes died, the audience immediately jumped to its feet. It was a triumphal conclusion to a splendid Festival.

In the late afternoon sun on the Hall’s lovely patio the performers, Festival staff, and members of the audience mixed and enjoyed the final Festival gratis wine and appetizers.
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