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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
Valley of the Moon Music Festival / Sunday, July 21, 2019
Kyle Stegal, tenor; Rachel Barton Pine, Anna Pressler and Liana Bérubé, violin; Phyllis Kamrin, viola; Tanya Tomkins, cello; Eric Vivian, piano

Chausson's D Major Concerto July 21 at the VOM Festival in Sonoma

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 were on vivid display at the Valley of the Moon Festival on Sunday afternoon. Playing in the surprisingly good acoustics of the Hanna Boys Center auditorium in the town of Sonoma, soloist Rachel Barton Pine and five colleagues brought down the house with an inspired performance of Chausson’s rarely heard masterpiece.

The Chausson capped a program of works associated with the Franco-American salonierre Winnaretta Singer, an heiress to the Singer sewing machine fortune and a princess by marriage to Prince Edmond de Polignac. Her salon was at the center of Parisian cultural life at the turn of the 20th century, populated by Proust, Colette, Cocteau and a bevy of composers from Fauré to Stravinsky. Sylvia Kahan, author of a recent biography of Singer, introduced the program and gave valuable context for each piece.

After all the introductions, Ms. Pine rolled her wheelchair to the front of the stage and transferred to a piano bench. The quartet surrounded her like the string sections of an orchestra, and the piano loomed in the background, serving as winds, percussion, and brass.

As in a concerto, the orchestra stated the opening theme. Cellist Tanya Tomkins, the Festival’s artistic director, took the lead, leaning forward and guiding the other strings, including violist Phyllis Kamrin and violinists Anna Presler and Liana Bérubé. Pianist Eric Zivian, the Festival’s music director, blended well with the strings, aided by the crystalline tone of an elderly Chickering grand, made around the same time as the concerto.

Chausson’s introduction is dramatic, marked by a recurring three-note motive and unison fortissimos. Ms. Pine increased the drama considerably when she entered, playing a soaring line on a Guarneri violin with gorgeous, full-bodied sound. She floated effortlessly up and down the fingerboard, her bowing a sight to behold. Her playing was entrancing, particularly at the end of the movement, where she ascended to a stratospheric high note with heartfelt intensity.

The second movement, marked Pas vite (not fast), centers on a simple melody that begs for resolution. Pine propelled the group forward, ratcheting up the tension until the tune finally resolved on another high note. The next movement, marked Grave (slow, serious), serves as the emotional center of the concerto. Playing with expressive vibrato and exquisite bowing, Pine unveiled a surpassingly beautiful melody with true legato and sustained intensity.

The transcendence of the third movement ultimately gave way to the infectious vivacity of the finale, marked Tres animé (very animated). Here Ms. Pine and Mr. Zivian played occasional sonata-like passages as the others stood by. Ms. Pine was compelling throughout, and Mr. Zivian stoked the fire. What started as a concerto ended up as a full-fledged opera, with the central character baring her soul to an adoring public. The applause was thunderous.

The rest of the program paled somewhat in comparison to the Chausson. The concert opened with tenor Kyle Stegall singing five Venetian melodies by Fauré and the song cycle Venezia by Reynaldo Hahn, all accompanied by Mr. Zivian on piano.

Mr. Stegall has a refreshingly pure tone and strong control of vocal dynamics and facial expressions. He was most successful in the Fauré, which he had memorized, but less so in the Hahn, which he read mostly from the score. Playing from score is fine for instrumentalists, but it’s a problem for vocalists because it prevents them from fully engaging with the audience. In the Fauré, Mr. Stegall acted out the lyrics by waving his hands, molding his face, and grabbing the piano, among other gestures. In the Hahn, most of that fell away.

Admittedly, the rapid-fire Venetian dialect in the Hahn is tricky, but so are the French lyrics by Paul Verlaine in the Fauré. Mr. Stegall’s French was superb, with near-perfect articulation and pronunciation. His Italian was equally good, and it was remarkable to see how open-mouthed the Italian was, as opposed to the closed-mouth French. In the end, a little more memorizing on the Hahn would have gone a long way.

Princess Singer was an early fan of Wagner, so the program segued to one of his Wesendonck Lieder, originally a set of five songs for soprano and piano, with lyrics by the poet Mathilde Wesendonck. Not only was the vocal part transposed down to tenor, but the piano was replaced by a string quartet. The result was puzzling. Mr. Stegall’s German wasn’t nearly as good as his French and Italian, and he sometimes failed to articulate final syllables. Meanwhile, the string quartet did its best to imitate a piano, but an actual piano would have been a better candidate for the job.

The second half began with Stravinsky’s “Three Pieces for String Quartet,” a brief foray into chamber music composed the year after “The Rite of Spring.” The three pieces hint at the possibilities of a full-fledged string quartet, with some trademark driving rhythms and ostinatos, but the pieces are over so quickly that there isn’t much chance for development. In this concert, they mainly served to set the stage for the fully developed Chausson.

[Reprinted with permission from San Francisco Classical Voice]