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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...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
Chamber
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, perfor...
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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