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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 28, 2019
Tanya Tomkins, Geirbruder Gudmundsdottir and Ana Kim, cello; Eric Zivian, Christian de Luca and David Belkovski, piano; Andrew Gonzalez snd Joshua Gomberoff, viola; Marc Destrubé, Keats Dieffenbach and Jason Issokson, violin;

E. Zivian and D. Sampson July 28 At the Hanna Canter (Joanie Shalit Photo)

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 from the mid 1850s. The music of this program truly evoked the life and times of the composers, and the Festival amassed an impressive lineup of stellar artists to present a full and memorable afternoon of music making.

Soprano Danielle Sampson and Eric Zivian, the latter playing a Chickering fortepiano on loan from U.C. Berkeley, gave delightful performances of lieder by Clara and Brahms. Ms. Sampson has one of the loveliest voices I've heard in recent years, and there is an elusive quality known as "chiaroscuro" (bright-dark) in her sound that I have not heard in a light soprano voice since perhaps Kathleen Battle. It is excited without being shrill, clear but not monochromatic, and simultaneously light and full. She also has a sympathetic and welcoming presence and sings with great personal warmth and commitment. My only disappointment was that all her songs were more or less read with the score in hand. As a result I found she could not fully express text or music to her fullest potential. That said, her voice soared gloriously in Brahms' "Der Tod, das ist die kühle Nacht". Clara Schumann's exquisite "Die stille Lotosblume" floated sweetly and the agitated "Er is gekommen" evoked the requisite high anxiety. Still something about her performance could not fully ignite. The well-known Brahms' recital staple "Von eviger Liebe" did not have the dramatic specificity that complete memorization might have allowed, and all the songs fared dramatically about the same: pristinely sung, and about halfway acted. Ms. Sampson is a significant talent with a great future and I would love to experience her perform this program memorized.

It was a special treat to hear two pieces featuring the viola as solo instrument. Festival Laureate violist Andrew Gonzalez gave a charming and colorful performance of Robert Schumann's Märchenbilder, partnering with Festival laureate pianist Christian de Luca for the first and third movements, and with Mr. Zivian the second and fourth. Mr. Gonzalez's second solo offering was the "Grave" movement from Joachim’s Hebrew Mélodies. Mr. Gonzalez spun out beautifully touching and melancholy phrases supported by Mr. Zivian's intuitive, sensitive accompaniment.

Violinist Jason Issokson and Festival Apprentice pianist David Belkovski performed the F-A-E Sonata flat-out brilliantly. This piece is unique in that it was composed collaboratively by Schumann (intermezzo and finale), Brahms (scherzo) and Schumann's pupil Albert Dietrich (allegro), and given as a gift to their mutual friend the super-star Joachim. F-A-E stands for "frei aber einsam " ("free but lonely"), a motto adopted by Joachim, and also refers to the musical notes the piece was based upon. The score was presented to Joachim at a salon at the Schumann home and he played it that very evening, correctly identifying who wrote which movement.

Mr. Issokson is not only a spectacular player but also a funny and entertaining presenter, a self-described "giant nerd". After a few minutes of amusing setup, his demeanor suddenly changed as he lifted his violin to play, transporting the audience to Clara and Robert's Düsseldorf living room. His emotional range, sheer technical power and precise intonation guided the listener through this wild rollercoaster of a sonata. From Dietrich's rangy and highly chromatic allegro, through Schumann's tenderly introspective intermezzo and Brahms' lively scherzo, Mr. Issokson gave a finely honed rendering. Schumann's finale is quite demanding technically and in stamina, with many difficult repeated passages, and he gave the sense of it being mere child's play. I felt though, that Mr. Belkovski’s playing faded a bit in intensity towards the end, but it was more a visual impression rather than his playing, which remained strong.

The concert concluded with Brahms' Sextet No. 1 in B-flat Major, Op. 18, written when he was 27. An admitted novice in the world of instrumental chamber music, if I hadn't known it was Brahms, I would have guessed Schubert or Schumann on this first hearing, because so many of his signature orchestrating devices and harmonic colors were not that sonically evident in this early work.

The uniformly outstanding players were Keats Dieffenbach and Marc Destrubé, violins; Joshua Gomberoff and Mr. Gonzalez, violas; and cellists Geirprúdor Gudmundsdóttir and Tanya Tomkins. The tempi chosen by this ensemble were exceptionally brisk, injecting welcome energy into the basically laid back, summer afternoon feel of this piece. The opening allegro isn't really fast at all but has long lyrical lines. The andante is funereal in both key (D minor) and color. The scherzo dances, but never frenetically, and the finale rondo eases its way to the end, picking some final heat at the coda.

This sextet of musicians played as friends would in their own salon. Mr. Gonzalez appeared to manage a few transitions from his center seat, but otherwise they just played as one entity. That is the ultimate beauty and goal of chamber music of which this recital (and whole Festival series) was an exemplary example.