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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...
Symphony
ALEXANDER TORADZE DELIVERS A LESSON IN SERENITY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 05, 2019
An entire concerto movement consisting of serene piano melodies over a soothing backdrop is probably not the first thing that springs to mind when seeing Shostakovich’s name on an orchestra program, but that’s exactly what pianist Alexander Toradze delivered--twice--at Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony c...
Symphony
MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON CLOSES WITH AUTUMNAL ELGAR AND THEATRICAL BEETHOVEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, April 28, 2019
Mozart’s enchanting Overture to his opera The Magic Flute, a miniature tapestry of gems from the 1791 work, opened the Marin Symphony’s final concert of the 2018-2019 season. Under conductor Alasdair Neale, the playing of the sprightly seven-minute piece by a reduced-size classical ensemble sparkled...
Recital
SHAHAM-EGUCHI DUO'S EXCITING MUSICAL GENEROSITY IN WEILL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, April 26, 2019
Violinist Gil Shaham may be the most modest virtuoso on the concert stage today, and it is the great music he most wishes to put forward, never himself. Generosity, a quality he is known for, was abundantly clear in Weill Hall April 26 when he performed, with pianist Akira Eguchi, a generous program...
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...
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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