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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

Violinist Rachel Barton Pine

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 both performances, tackling some fiendishly difficult music.

This year's Festival theme was a fascinating and timely subject: the great European salonnières (salon hostesses) of the 17th-19th centuries. Wealth, combined with intelligence, taste, wit, charm, passion and mentoring skills, enabled these women to attract artists, intellectuals, writers, poets, musicians, and composers into their living rooms to think, create, perform, and to simply be with each other. It was through the salon culture that intellectual, musical and artistic work could be read, seen, heard and discussed in a free and intimate setting. Moreover, the salons created an atmosphere of the importance and value of art and its survival. It was a symbiotic relationship, one that also gave direction and powerful meaning to the salonnières' lives as well.

The particular concerts to be reviewed here featured the music that would have been performed and promoted at the salons of the Parisian salonnière Winnaretta Singer, Princesse de Polignac, and the German pianist and composer Clara Wieck Schumann. These two women were able to use wealth and social position (Winnaretta was heiress to the Singer Sewing Machine fortune and herself an exhibited painter) to foment their inner circles of geniuses and in the case of Schumann attain fame.

Clara Schumann’s music will appear in a subsequent review of the July 28 event.

The first half of the Winnaretta Singer concert consisted of songs by Fauré, Hahn, and Wagner, showcasing the interpretations of tenor Kyle Stegall and Mr. Zivian. The second half featured the divine violinist Rachel Barton Pine, who dazzled as soloist in the Chausson Concerto in D Major for Violin, Piano and String Quartet. Stravinsky's brief and entertaining Three Pieces for String Quartet rounded out the program. All of these composers were connected through Winnaretta's lavish Parisian salon.

Mr. Stegall and Mr. Zivian opened the program and sailed beautifully through Fauré's Cinq Mélodies de Venise (poems of Paul Verlaine) with a fresh, light-filled approach and tone, forging an expressive narrative and connection to the audience. Mr. Stegall sang with a lovely, sometimes full but mostly restrained power, increasing his vocalism to the thrill level only at the expected climactic phrases. French mélodies are vessels of subtilty, not to be confused with the high wire acts of operatic arias, but when he did ramp up the volume it was magnificent, hinting that this voice might develop into a more dramatic instrument.

The Hahn songs presented a different challenge. Hahn, a Venezuelan native and naturalized French citizen, composed nearly all of his vocal pieces in French, but Venezia of 1901 is his setting of six poems written in the Venetian dialect. And they are a rapid-fire mouthful! Mr. Stegall's fluid delivery was, to say the least, very impressive. He is such a talented and interesting singer, I only wish these songs had been memorized so that his communication would have been directly with us rather than with the score.

Mr. Zivian's playing is remarkable, not just for its virtuosity which is considerable, but for his directness of musical intent and absolute connection to the whole piece. He creates a state of hyper-awareness and oneness for the musical partner. Great collaborative pianists are like great conductors, and he is a great one.

Completing the first half was Mr. Zivian's arrangement for string quartet of "Träume" from Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder. "Träume" is actually a study for the Act II love duet from the opera Tristan und Isolde. The songs were written for soprano and piano, but this song in particular has been performed often by men, and there are a variety of orchestrated versions. Mr. Zivian's arrangement for quartet is lovely and the song also sat very comfortably in Mr. Stegall's voice, which took on an attractive fuller, slightly plumper quality intoning the German text. The masterful quartet of Anna Presler and Liana Bérubé, violins, Phyllis Kamrin (viola) and Ms. Tompkins, played with beautiful timbre and soulful expression. The challenge here was the rubato of this song and I heard an occasional loss of rhythmic togetherness. Mr. Stegall was also using the score, so the overall effect was that of a rehearsal rather than a performance. I would have loved to have heard them perform it one more time, and with him off-book.

After intermission the same quartet gave a fabulously furious and quirky rendering of the Stravinsky. Ms. Tompkins set the pace, and the effect of totally independent instruments conversing in heated debate or chattering to themselves with great bravado (the listener may choose which) was perfectly realized.

The concert ended with a sterling performance by the same quartet, together with Eric Zivian, solo piano, and Rachel Barton Pine, solo violin, of the Chausson's masterpiece. To describe this performance as epic doesn't quite suffice, as every part demands the highest level of virtuosity and ensemble skill. Ms. Barton Pine was radiant to behold as well as hear, as she dispatched one glorious passage after another, seemingly with no effort. Her high and low note entrances alike cut the air with a rare purity and beauty of tone, and the last movement rocked the house with its sheer power. Mr. Zivian was the evening's champion, having played most of the program, and the quartet played with equal intensity and flawless communication.

A bonus to this concert was that Sylvia Kahan, the author of “Music's Modern Muse,” a Life of Winnaretta Singer, Princesse de Polignac, curated the concert with a lecture that was a fascinating background for the performed music. Her anecdotes enticed me to buy the book!