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SIX GUITARISTS IN UNIQUE NAPA RECITAL
by Gary Digman
Sunday, July 25, 2021
The first Napa Valley Guitar Festival was held at Napa’s First Presbyterian Church July 25, and featured performances from six classical guitarists. The Church is an iconic structure in downtown Napa, its huge white presence dominating the scene, and the white theme continues inside punctuated by be
Chamber
CLARA SCHUMANN TRIO COMMANDS VOM CHAMBER MUSIC CONCERT AT HANNA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 24, 2021
The Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Series has begun several virtual and a few live concerts in its new seventh season, some broadcast from Sonoma’s Hanna Center Hall and some in posh local venues. July 24’s video had a small live audience and a well-produced video program of three works. Titled “
Chamber
EXEMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MENDO FESTIVAL FT. BRAGG CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Faced with the impossibility of presenting concerts in the iconic large white tent on the bluff, the Mendocino Music Festival opted to use Ft. Bragg’s Cotton Auditorium for ten events in the abbreviated 35th season. San Francisco’s Alexander String Quartet played July 21 to a fully masked audience
Chamber
ECLECTIC PROGRAMMING AT PIANOSONOMA CONCERT IN SCHROEDER HALL
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Tuesday, July 20, 2021
After a dark year bereft of live performance, pianoSonoma launched July 20 the first Vino & Vibrato concert of the 2021 season in Sonoma State's Schroeder Hall, albeit sadly senza vino due to Covid protocols. Three exceptional musicians showered the audience with an interesting variety of pia
Chamber
RARELY-PLAYED SCHUMANN HIGHLIGHTS HEALDSBURG RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 10, 2021
Brave New Music sporadically produces concerts in and around Healdsburg, and July 10’s violin recital in downtown St. Paul’s Church must have been one of the first post-lockdown, post-be-extra-careful classical music concerts in Sonoma County's summer season. New Music Founder Gary McLaughlin with
Chamber
ECHOS ON A WARM SUMMER NIGHT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, July 10, 2021
ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s first concert in a year and a half, “A Musical Promenade,” was a promenade indeed. When patrons arrived at San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for the 6:00 performance July 10, they were funneled through the garden to the Duncan Hall patio, where folding chairs were set
Chamber
LONG DISTANCE LOVE BEGINS VOM SUMMER FESTIVAL
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Thursday, June 24, 2021
The Valley of the Moon Music Festival offered a 7th season preview June 24 with a stunning online concert, aptly named Long Distance Love, featuring inspired performances of Beethoven's short song cycle An die ferne Geliebte,, and selections from Brahms’ beloved Liebeslieder Wal
Recital
ROMERO'S ARTISTRY IN SLV RECITAL PROGRAMMING AND PERFORMANCE
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 2, 2021
Gustavo Romero has been an admired visitor to North Bay stages, playing over a decade recitals at Dominican University, the Music at Oakmont concerts and at the Spring Lake Village Concert Series. He returned June 2 to SLV in a virtual recital, videoed from his home concert hall the University of N
RUBICON'S VIRTUAL CONCERT A MALANGE OF CONTRASTS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, May 16, 2021
The inaugural concert of a new Mendocino County chamber group is a reason for celebration, and the Rubicon Trio made the most of a mixed musical menu during a May16 virtual concert. Presented by the Ukiah Symphony Orchestra as the last in their “Salons with the Symphony” Series, the Rubicon began w
Recital
PIANO VIRTUOSITY IN YAKUSHEV'S REDWOOD ARTS RECITAL
by Nicki Bell
Sunday, May 16, 2021
Russian pianist Ilya Yakushev’s recital for the Redwood Arts Council was perhaps the local season’s virtual music at the greatest distance, as the filming May 16 came from a church in St. Petersburg. And good filming it was, with multiple camera viewpoints of the church, full and split screens and
CHAMBER REVIEW

Cellit Joel Cohen

CAPTIVATING DOHNANYI AND ELGAR IN UKIAH'S DEEP VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 4, 2012

If the nearly 300 people at a Feb. 4 Ukiah concert are an indication, the Deep Valley Chamber Music series has finally arrived. One of the best-kept secrets in North Coast music, Deep Valley has been presenting increasingly challenging repertoire and first-cabin musicians since 2008, and the “Midwinter”concert in First Presbyterian Church was provocative and ultimately satisfying.

Provocative? Chamber music by Dohnanyi (his Serenade for String Trio) and Elgar (his A Minor Piano Quintet) are rarely-played items, and the Brahms Cello Sonata wasn’t one of the usual two, but a transcription for cello of his first Violin Sonata in G. Redwood Valley cellist Joel Cohen and Ukiah pianist Elena Casanova began with the Brahms, always curious because the so familiar and rich-hued themes have to take on the cello’s resonance and the lower (darker) pitch. Recent hearings of the work, by violinist Alexander Barantshik in Santa Rosa (G Major) and cellist Joyce Geeting (D Major), were not offset by the Ukiah performance. Mr. Cohen, oddly playing from score, has a lovely bottom-end sound, favored by the hall’s acoustics, and adopted a brisk and no-nonsense tempo in the vivace. This was not a note-perfect performance and a page-turner’s slip affected more than once the ensemble. Ms. Casanova was an aggressive partner throughout, not bass heavy in the coda but redeeming herself in the final two chords.

The pianist brought out seductive inner voices in the lovely second movement Adagio and here the partnership was excellent, Mr. Cohen’s dynamic control and double stops deftly executed. In the finale the thematic connection with the first movement was explored in a magisterial way, the quiet ending enhanced by an elegant cello grace note in the last bar.

Dohanyi’s music is often allied with Brahms, but in the 1904 Op. 10 Serenade there was none of the German master, but a lot of Dvorak and Magyar influences. Joining Mr. Cohen were violist Roy Malan and violist Elizabeth Prior to craft a riveting and convincing reading of the five-movement work. Ensemble was impeccable throughout, the long line of the viola in the Romanza and pizzicato duet of cello and viola over Mr. Malan’s soaring violin captivating. Often I have heard a sharp edge to Mr. Malan’s tone, especially in the high registers, but the acoustics were warm and direct here and his playing all evening was exemplary. The Scherzo was a presto romp with Mr. Cohen’s cello singing out, the dramatic playing underscored by many false cadences. Inter-movement applause seemed finally appropriate.

The Serenade tends to wander structurally, but in a way musician love (as in Schubert’s “heavenly length”) and in this performance highlighting the composer’s consummate invention. A propulsive Rondo concluded the work, Mr. Malan’s clean scale playing carrying to the back of the hall and ultimately bringing at the final chords the audience to its feet in appreciation.

The long intermission in a long concert featured only Elgar’s Op. 84 Quintet, and in the first movement it’s a very un-Edwardian Elgar. Ms. Casanova returned to the piano, joined by Hayward-based violinist Philip Santos and the string trio, to play a surging first movement. Here the composer lurking was perhaps Franck, and the feeling of a romantic approach of 1880 palpable in a movement from 1918. It’s easy but dangerous to conclude that Elgar’s Quintet grew out of the carnage of the War, but if it’s there at all, it would be in the opening chordal and chromatic Moderato-Allegro. Ms. Casanova pushed the pace and incisively contrasted the opening march and the curious “palm court” waltz sections. Major and minor alternate a lot here and Ms. Prior’s voice leading was exquisite.

A more familiar Elgar, of the Enigma Variations and Violin Concerto, returns in the Adagio which was elegantly played. Mr. Santos and Mr. Malan sounded as one and Mr. Cohen played the piano phrases with great subtlety. In this group’s hands the movement took on a threnody character, the interplay of vocal lines attainting radiance. A triumphant finale, modulating often, was demanding on each performer with sweeping arpeggio patterns that required Ms. Casanova’s most concentrated playing of the evening. The massive final chords, from the low cello and the pianist’s bottom E to the high strings, resounded to loud applause and cheers.

Though each of concert’s musicians performs constantly all over the North Bay area, they seldom have schedules that allow them to perform together, making the virtuosity of the instrumental mix an affecting achievement.