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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 / 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