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Chamber
PERFORMER AS PROMOTER: CLARA SCHUMANN AND MUSICAL SALONS CLOSE VOM FESTIVAL
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Sunday, July 28, 2019
The July 28 closing performance of the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival could have been subtitled "Friends", as it was devoted to works by both Clara and Robert Schumann, and those of their friends and protégés Brahms and virtuoso violinist Joseph Joachim, with whom Clara toured extensively...
Chamber
ROMANTIC CHAMBER WORKS HIGHLIGHT VOM FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, July 27, 2019
Now in its 5th season the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival presented July 27 a concert titled “My Brilliant Sister,” featuring Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel’s compositions for combinations of voice, fortepiano and strings. Fanny and her brother Felix were close, and Felix occasionally published ...
Symphony
ROMANTIC DREAMS AT THE MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kayleen Asbo
Wednesday, July 24, 2019
Romanticism, contrary to many popular perceptions, wasn’t simply about diving into the habitat of the heart. Romanticism began as a literary movement that elevated the power of nature as a transcendent force and sought with keen nostalgia to rediscover the wisdom of the past. The Romantics in both l...
Chamber
CHAUSSON CONCERTO SHINES IN A VISIONARY'S SALON
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, July 21, 2019
Ernest Chausson’s four-movement Concerto in D Major for Violin, Piano, and String Quartet (1891) is neither concerto nor sonata nor symphony, but it somehow manages to be all three, especially when played with fire and conviction by an accomplished soloist. Those incendiary and emotional elements w...
Chamber
EUROPEAN SALON MUSIC CAPTIVATES AT VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Sunday, July 21, 2019
Two stunning programs of 19th and 20th century chamber music were presented on July 21 and 28 as part of the Valley of the Moon Music Festival at the Hanna Center in Sonoma. Festival founders and directors pianist Eric Zivian and cellist Tanya Tompkins were both on hand to contribute brilliantly at ...
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...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Brentano String Quartet / Sunday, September 30, 2018
Mark Steinberg and Serena Canin, violin; Misha Amory, viola; Nina Lee, cello

Brentano String Quartet Accepting Applause Sept. 30 in Weill Hall

THORNY BARTOK AND ELEGANT MENDELSSOHN FOR THE BRENTANO

by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, September 30, 2018

In a minor masterpiece of programming choices the Brentano String Quartet played a Sept. 30 Weill Hall program with an emphasis on refinement, even with a challenging Bartok work in the mix.

Dvorák’s Miniatures for Two Violins and Viola (Op. 75a) opened the concert with charm and gentle loveliness, then folk dance jubilation, profound sadness and finally sighs of lament. The colors were varied and the textures of the three instruments seemed to beguile the attentive audience of 300. The balance and communication of the players was exquisite and powerful in understatement. Czech rhythms appeared in the capriccio, poco allegro and in the romance smooth attacks and deft swelling in short phrases was lovely. Second violin Serena Canin and violist Mischa Amory supported the themes projected by violinist Mark Steinberg in impeccable ensemble with no phrase overplayed and tempos that felt a perfect fit to the music. The performer played standing.

The central work of the program was Bartok’s Second Quartet from 1917, a work inspired by the composer’s travel as an ethnomusicologist in his native Hungary. The first moderato movement opens with the cello leading into dissonant and emotional themes, and the Brentano passed these around, sometimes evoking alienation and at other times shifting from gentle rocking to furious outbursts. There was pain and there was relief. The intensity of this music was sustained which drew from folk traditions, but it’s not folk music in the usual sense, but structural and rhythmic “peasant” music. The second movement (allegro motto capriccioso) was a festival of surging Hungarian dance rhythms. Mr. Steinberg led the wild frenzy which suddenly stops, is tentative, then evolves into a nostalgic waltz, then a gallop with motives from the first movement. The fast and clear passagework in all instruments was riveting and dramatic, especially a thick texture duo from Mr. Amory and cellist Nina Lee.

The third and final lento movement is unusual because traditionally last movements are lively. Here dissonances hover, answered by a sighing cello line and a sense of desolation conveyed by a sad descending violin part. Everywhere the sound had a yearning, looking backward character with wandering unisons, a lovely descending violin phrase from Ms. Canin, and “statements” by both violins that led to “answers” from the cello and viola. Mr. Steinberg’s high register playing had a reference to the Vaughan William’s “Lark Ascending,” and the thorny music an echo of Bartok’s contemporary Pfitzner.

After intermission came Mendelssohn’s Quartet in E flat Major, Opus 44, No. 3, the fifth of his six in the genre.. The allegro vivace is full of excitement, at times restrained, and other times exploding and soaring. Always there are echoes of Beethoven. Repeats were played differently and the knotty first violin part with fistfuls of notes and sixteenth-note passages up high was managed with aplomb by Mr. Steinberg. Clarity here could have been lost wth too much speed, but the Brentano played it admirably with a felicitous tempo. The echt scherzo had proper Mendelssohnian scurrying fantasy and the light attacks in the fugal section breathtaking. The three pizzicato notes at the end were perfectly shaped. The playing in the third movement evoked love in an ever changing form with delicate phrasing, perfect intonation and a planned sense of tentative character. One doesn’t see much inter-musician eye contact with the Brentano, and they are intensely focused on their scores. Key solo playing came from Mr. Amory.

Concluding this quartet and the afternoon’s music the playing of the molto allegro con fuoco soared and and always urged onward, with strong references to the composer’s second cello Sonata, Op. 49 Piano Trio and even the youthful Octet the same key. This is contented and happy music, built carefully in small climaxes. Mr. Steinberg was again the leader here with an agile bow arm, easily conquering the difficulty of playing three sixteenth notes down bow and a single sixteenth note up bow, all the while staying at the same place in the bow and and at a fast pace not making any accents the lone note. The performance had an inevitable quality, gracious and ordered.

Perhaps for some in the hall the playing lacked the big-boned projection of the local hero Parker and Alexander Quartets, but for most the ensemble and elegant musical blend was richly satisfying. A large ovation greeted the exuberant final chord, but there was no encore.

Daniel Greenhouse and Terry McNeill contributed to this review.