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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...
CHORAL AND VOCAL REVIEW
Sonoma Bach / Saturday, June 01, 2019
Sonoma Bach Choir. Robert Worth, conductor. Live Oak Baroque Orchestra. Danielle Sampson, soprano; Paul Murray, bass

L to R: D. Sampson, E. Blumenstock, R. Worth, W. Skeen and P. Murray June 1

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' Ein deutches Requiem. Saturday’s evening’s performance is reviewed here.

The Requiem was preceded in a brief first half by five German baroque motets written on some of the same texts Brahms employed in the setting of his Requiem in 1868. The fifty-plus member choir was joined by Sonoma Bach's resident Live Oak Baroque Orchestra (violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock, director) for a impressive evening of music-making.

The reviewer is a recent Bay Area transplant, so this was my first experience with Sonoma Bach and Schroeder Hall, and I was not disappointed. It is a charming venue, and Sonoma Bach a formidable group. My seat (so comfortable) was in the center of the back section and the acoustics from where I sat were wonderful and balanced. Other attendees sitting to the hall’s far sides and close to the stage however complained of some balance issues with the chorus.

Mr. Worth devoted the first part of the performance to a set of five 17th century German motets for orchestra and chorus by five different composers: Thomas Selle, Tobias Michael, Heinrich Schwemmer, Andreas Hammerschmidt, and the great Heinrich Schütz. The Schwemmer was notable for some uncertain entrances by the choir and an overall lack of crispness compared to the other pieces, and the Schütz stood out as the most powerful. Although all are wonderful works with an interesting musicological connection to the Requiem, and were certainly well-performed, they seemed unnecessary to fill out this program. Even at only 70 minutes, Brahms doesn't need a curtain warmer. It's such a special piece that I wouldn't have felt cheated by letting the performance be just a beautiful evening with a beloved old friend you don't get to see very often.


After intermission the range and vocal scope of the Requiem cannot be underestimated. Although not as operatic as Verdi's Requiem or as vocally punishing as Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, it is still a huge sing. The individual sections (even the oft-neglected altos) are given gorgeous and exposed phrases, particularly in the 7th movement, making section blend an even more critical element. The contrapuntal sections are tricky with entrances coming in odd places, and plenty of opportunities for singer error. This group, however, nailed everything with ample evidence of solid preparation. I heard confident entrances, clear diction (for this German speaker), consistent blend and laudable stamina. The tenors prevailed successfully with an impressive tone most of the time, given the high tessitura of their part. The altos and basses were rich and full-voiced throughout. The sopranos floated into the stratosphere with a lovely quality, if occasionally a tiny sag in pitch. The chorus has a well-blended, uniform sound overall, even at double forte.

Of particular interest in this program was the 20-member chamber orchestra's rendering of a recent (2011) reduced orchestral arrangement of the Requiem prepared by Joachim Linckelmann. Though I missed the important emotional color of the harp in some key moments, the reduction otherwise worked splendidly in the intimate Schroeder setting. There was exceptional blend, ensemble, and nuance from the strings, and the oboe, horn and timpani solos came through poignantly. I was impressed at how full the overall sound was.

The soloists, Danielle Sampson and Paul Murray, were both of very high caliber. Ms. Sampson's clear and lovely soprano soared effortlessly through the long phrases of the 5th movement "Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit" ("Now you have sorrow") with warm, sympathetic expression. Mr. Murray, with his attractive (if not thunderous) bass-baritone, gave an appealing, technically solid and dramatically intense performance of the sermon-like solos contained in the third and sixth movements: "Herr, lehre doch mich" ("Lord, teach me") and "Siehe, ich sage euch ein Geheimnis" ("Behold, I tell you a mystery"). Both soloists joined the chorus for the final
movement-a nice decision to include them.


Mr. Worth is a passionate and inspirational scholar and conductor, and his framing of the concert in a theme of "light" is what people love about Sonoma County, and you could feel it in the audience. His conducting was bright, energetic, and rhythmically very disciplined, though at times his excitement gave way to a driven quality. His tempos were surprisingly fast at the Saturday performance, particularly in the first four movements, at odds with Brahms' own markings. More introspection, tenderness (and light!) could have been accomplished by slowing down a little and letting the music exhale, giving more space at points of repose or transition, allowing the pauses and extended ritards to happen, and Brahms' own rhythmic flexibility to have its way. That said, this was a very clean, tight and admirably cohesive performance. He indeed made the light shine out of darkness through this very "human" requiem.