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CHAMBER REVIEW
Sonoma Classical Music Society / Friday, May 30, 2008
Elizabeth Dorman and Tanya Tomkins

Elizabeth Dorman and Tanya Tomkins

CELLO-PIANO DUO NOT QUITE RIPE

by Terry McNeill
Friday, May 30, 2008

Sonoma's Classical Music Society closed its fourth season May 30 with a program partly piano recital and partly chamber music.

Presented to 80 people in Sonoma's Burlingame Hall, cellist Tanya Tomkins joined pianist Elizabeth Dorman in Beethoven's flamboyant A Major Sonata, Op. 69, comprising the entire second half. Both artists had an exuberant view of the score and the cello sound in the hall was distinct and warm. Ms. Tomkins needed all the sound she could muster because balance problems pervaded the playing. Constantly pushing the tempo and aggressively stating the four-movement work's engaging themes, Ms. Dorman led the way to a sharply-seasoned but unsettling performance. It was frequently difficult to hear the cello line, though in the brief adagio cantabile the long-line was lovely.

The concert's first half was all piano, and this reviewer heard only the last movement of Beethoven's F-Sharp Major Sonata, Op. 78. The playing was expressive and idiomatic,
but was hampered along with the concluding Chopin works by the inadequate and fatigued house piano. Ms. Dorman, currently studying at the San Francisco Conservatory, gave extroverted readings of the F Major and F Minor Studies from Chopin's Op. 10 set, mastering the technical details of the left-hand arpeggios in No. 8 while grappling with indistinct right-hand scales. The instrument again may have been the culprit, and noisy trap work contributed to mix. The wide extensions in No. 9 were well mastered.

Arguably one of Chopin's greatest works, the titanic F-Minor Ballade, Op. 52 was convincingly played with the requisite drama and tension. Ms. Dorman has a strong rhythmic impulse and was in no hurry to get anywhere. Her rubato playing was unsubtle, but she has an innate understanding of what to do in this under-ten minute exploration of Chopin's genius. She took the pedal at measure 203, cutting off the chordal resonance, and was a wise choice. The cascade of pianistic colors in the coda was skillfully managed, inexorably driving to the final four chords. F Minor is a sinister key.

The Tomkins-Dorman duo would profit by programming more cello works of the standard literature, leaving the solo piano literature to a separate program. The two women are just beginning their collaboration, and based on this one Beethoven performance, it could be a fruitful partnership.