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JOYFUL ACCOLADES FOR BROWNS IN SRS VIDEO GALA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
As with many area musical groups the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled several virtual concerts, beginning Oct. 11 in Weill Hall. In a program surprise, a pre-season Gala honoring Norma and Corrick Brown came Sept. 12 on YouTube, and proved to be an attractive if not especially riveting 70 minutes ...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
BEETHOVEN'S VALENTINE'S DAY GIFT IN RAC SEBASTOPOL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, February 14, 2020
Continuing a season of Redwood Arts Council successes, the Kouzov Duo performed an eclectic Valentine’s Day concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church before an audience of 125. Beethoven’s charming Op. 66 Variations on Mozart’s “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from the opera the Magic Flute was a bouncy ...
LUSH BACH PERFORMANCE IN DENK'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 13, 2020
Memorable artistic interpretations of musical masterpieces are often at extremes, and with the Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (WTC - Book I) that Jeremy Denk played in Weill Hall Feb. 13, the pianist was only sporadically at unique or ebullient musical ends. But his playing wasn’t exactly at opposite...
BROWNE, PAREMSKI HEAD STELLAR CAST AT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 9, 2020
The Feb. 9 performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony offered a healthy dose of 21st century music firmly bound to the 19th. Matt Browne’s first symphony, “The Course of Empire”—based on a series of five paintings by Thomas Cole, who founded the Hudson River School of American painting in the 1820s—emp...
FRENCH ORCHESTRAL MUSIC A FIRST FOR THE SO CO PHILHARMONIC
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 2, 2020
Over many years the Sonoma County Philharmonic has played little French music, but perhaps this oversight was corrected Feb. 2 in a splendid all-Gallic program Feb. 1 and 2 in the Jackson Theater. Classical Sonoma reviewed the Sunday afternoon concert. In his eighth conducting season with the So C...
POLISH MUSICAL WORLDS GLOW BRIGHT IN NFM WROCLAW WEILL PERFORMANCE
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, February 1, 2020
The NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic, with conductor Giancarlo Guerrero, gave a concert of enormous energy and emotional impact on Feb.1 to a small audience in Weill Hall. This orchestra has been a major cultural force in Poland since 1949, playing under many renowned conductors and has been committed to pr...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Valley of the Moon Music Festival / Saturday, July 27, 2019
Danielle Sampson, soprano; Keats Dieffenbach and Jason Issokson, violin; Joshua Gomberoff, viola; Geirbruder Gundmundsdottir, Ana Kim and Tanya Tomkins, cello; Christian De Luca and Eric Zivian, piano

Pianist Christian De Luca

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 Fanny’s songs as his own. In a period of just fifteen years Fanny composed 460 pieces of music while also hosting weekly Sunday concerts presenting new works by Felix, herself and others. Sister and brother both died in 1847.

This concert was dedicated by cellist and Festival co-founder Tanya Tomkins to the late Anner Bylsma, cellist teacher and teacher whose inspiration continues to reach new generations of musicians. The opening piece, a Fantasy in G Minor, was played cellist played by Ana Kim and pianist Eric Zivian. It began with contemplative and yearning phrases passed between the players, often with expressive fortepiano melodies over long cello notes. Then an impetuous contrasting section lead through a melodic dialogue to a joyful ending, coming to rest with sweet pizzicatos. This was a satisfying opening piece of concise and understated romanticism, played with sensitivity and color.

Four Lieder selected from Ops. 1, 7, and 10 provided soprano Danielle Sampson with opportunity to shine in her expressive and dramatic singing. Accompanied to perfection by Mr. Zivian, Ms. Sampson interpreted both text and melody with clear articulation and masterful use of vocal dynamics. Heine’s “Warum sind den die Rosen” was poignant with a lover’s entreaties, and Eichendorff’s “Nachtwanderer” expressed night sounds and emotions with effective “soft shuddering” in the accompaniment. The third song, “In the Autumn”, was gently lyrical with dramatic outbursts, and in the last song, “Italien”, the composer wrote music that bursts into joyous dance with the duo bringing out the flirtatious happiness and exuberance.

Felix Mendelssohn’s D Major Cello Sonata (Op. 58) was performed by Ms. Tomkins and pianist Christian De Luca, the latter giving a brief talk on the fortepiano being used. It was built in 1841, with Viennese action enabling a light transparent touch suitable for the cascades of fast passages in Mendelssohn’s music. The four movements had exciting aural stories to impart. The first allegro assai vivace was brisk, impassioned, pushing ever forward until the triumphant ending. Ms. Tomkins played as if possessed and Mr. De Luca was a powerhouse of energy, yet never covering the cello. The allegretto scherzando was played by the pianist with humor and charm, cello pizzicato complementing, balance and blend always lovely. In the adagio movement the piano part starts with broken harp-like chorale chords, creating a spiritual atmosphere which the cello interrupts with a recitative chromaticism contributing to a highly expressive and tragic lament. This is very great writing for cello-piano duo.

The finale of this sonata begins with shocking chords, then terrified scrambling into wild ecstatic passages, dazzling passagework, a moment’s quiet, and the final dash to the exhilarating conclusion. There was an immediate standing ovation for this excellent performance.

After intermission Ms. Kim and Mr. De Luca initiated the second half with Fanny’s Capriccio in A-flat major, from 1829. This is a lovely piece, immediately pleasant for the listener, continuously melodic with occasional drama. The musicians playing shined as Ms. Kim produced warm and rich cello sound, and Mr. De Luca played with a lightness of touch and sonic clarity. Danielle Sampson and Mr. Zivian returned a engaging set of songs: “Longing”, “Reproach”, “Twilight” and “Mountain Happiness” ( the poet was Goethe). These songs gave Ms. Sampson full opportunity to create and shape phrases in collaboration with Mr. Zivian. There was clarity and control of dynamics in all ranges, from mournful lines to joyous and energetic feeling.

The final treasure of the afternoon was Fanny’s String Quartet in E-flat Major, performed by four artists from the VOM apprentice program, a teaching school which is a central part of this Festival. Violinists Keats Dieffenbach and Jason Issokson, violist Joshua Gomberoff and Geirbruder Gudmundsdottir (cello) were outstanding performers of this work. As is ideal in a quartet, they could have individual voices and always managed to create a communal voice as well. Mr. Issokson introduced the piece and entertained the audience with his humor. Starting with a plaintive and mysterious adagio key centers were elusive and intriguing. The playing in the allegretto was puckish and transparent, reminiscent of another family member’s scherzos. It featured a light and whirlwind fast fugal section initiated by the viola and picked up breathtakingly by the cello and others. The romanze was played full of emotional and sang of upheavals, leading to peaceful compassion. The last movement (allegro molto vivace was a sparkling rapid romp, full of delights of polyphony, bubbling excitement and soaring melodies.

The concert in Sonoma's Hanna Center was followed by a wine and food reception on the Hall’s patio, audience and musicians mingling and sharing thoughts and comments on the performances.

Nicki Bell contributed to this review