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ECLECTIC PIANISM IN SPRING LAKE VILLAGE VIRTUAL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, May 5, 2021
During the pandemic The Santa Rosa Symphony’s virtual concerts received their due in performance praise, but another series, Spring Lake Village, more quietly presented monthly virtual concerts to a select local audience. May 5 saw the latest event, produced by impresario Robert Hayden, and feature...
Symphony
SONIC CONTRASTS HIGHLIGHT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SPRING PROGRAM
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 25, 2021
In a curious mixture of compositions, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s penultimate virtual concert of the season April 25 unfolded in ways both highly satisfying and a bit perplexing. Directed by resident Music Director Francesco Lecce-Chong, the event followed a familiar format – several contemporary wor...
Symphony
ZUILL PLAYS ZWILICH WITH SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The Santa Rosa Symphony took a cautious step toward the return of live music in their March 28 virtual concert by sharing the stage with an actual live soloist rather than an apparition. Star cellist Zuill Bailey was still masked, and his back was toward the equally masked and plexiglassed orchestra...
Chamber
ECLECTIC CELLO PIANO VIRTUAL RECITAL FROM TOMKINS ZIVIAN DUO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The venerable 41-year Redwood Arts Council Series in Occidental has joined the virtual recital world with low budget but artistically satisfying programs, mostly using videos filmed in the performer’s residences. March 28 saw the Tanya Tomkins-Eric Zivian duo present an eclectic program from their ...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HITS THE SWEET SPOT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Small orchestras can inhabit a sweet spot between chamber ensembles and full orchestras, but how well they hit that spot depends on the composer's orchestration and the players' ability to project. That dependence was on full display in the Santa Rosa Symphony's Feb. 28 concert, which featured three...
Chamber
NOVEL OBOE-HARPSICHORD RECITAL FROM AIKEN DUO IN UKIAH
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Oboe and harpsichord recitals are a rare North Bay event, even in a pandemic environment where a formal hall setting isn’t available. So it was a delight Feb. 21 to experience on the Ukiah Symphony’s website a recital by Symphony oboist Beth Aiken and harpsichordist husband Tom. The Aiken home vis...
Symphony
A HEALTHY MIX OF TRANSCRIPTIONS AND ORIGINALS FROM THE SR SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Transcriptions and ascending arpeggios were the order of the day on Jan. 24, as the Santa Rosa Symphony performed uplifting works by Bach/Webern, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Marianna Martínes and Mozart. The concert video was made in Weill Hall on Jan. 9. The first transcription was Webern’s 1935 renderi...
Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
CHAMBER REVIEW
Sonoma Classical Music Society / Saturday, January 5, 2013
Nigel Armstrong, violin. Elizabeth Dorman, piano

Nigel Armstrong and Elizabeth Dorman Jan. 5

NATIVE VIRTUOSITY

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 5, 2013

Violinist Nigel Armstrong is becoming a virtuoso staple for North Bay concerts, having played locally over the past three years in private homes, with symphonic groups and in several formal recitals. January 5 found him giving a benefit recital for the Sonoma Classical Music Society in his Sonoma hometown in the west side Kenny residence. It was an exceptional afternoon of music making.

With pianist Elizabeth Dorman, Mr. Armstrong opened with Beethoven’s Romance in G Major, a 10-minute work usually heard with orchestra. The piano reduction worked well, and Ms. Dorman was attentive to the soloist’s suave melodic line, carefully matching a lovely ascending and descending violin line at the midpoint.

The afternoon’s chief work was Schumann’s A Minor Sonata, Op. 105, a surging romantic piece from 1851 that Mr. Armstrong was playing for the first time in public. The warm partnership of the Beethoven Romance continued throughout this restless Sonata. The many modulations in the opening movement (“with passionate expression”) were deftly highlighted by the violinist, and his vibrato was wide and often pulsating. The short intermezzo was well played, ending in a soft series of pizzicato violin notes coupled with expressive, almost somber chords from the piano. Schumann’s restless energy burst forth in the finale. The duo performed the sudden dynamic contrasts pungently, and the rush to a tragic end moved the audience of 50 to loud applause.

Two movements from Bach’s solo Third Sonata (BWV 1005) began the second half. Mr. Armstrong played the opening Adagio soulfully and the long three-part fugue masterfully. A Bach work for solo piano came next, the popular B Flat Partita (BWV 825) with seven brief movements. Ms. Dorman’s committed playing was often too loud, and in the flowing first movement arabesques her rhythms were unstable. She does enjoy extravagant ornamentation on repeats but has yet to acquire much color in her playing.

Ending the recital were Brahms’ Hungarian Dances Four and Five in the Joachim arrangements. Every bit of these virtuosic and gypsy-like compositions was played with soaring vitality by Mr. Armstrong. He often leaned down to his pianist to underscore a phase, beginning with a nod or a wave of his fleet bow tip. The double and sporadic triple stops were faultless.

As an encore treat for violin buffs, Mr. Armstrong played Ernst’s “Variations on The Last Rose of Summer,” the sixth of his Polyphonic Etudes from the 1860s. Curiously, the final two variations and finale were omitted. But no matter, what Mr. Armstrong played was coin of the fiddler’s realm and uniquely thrilling.

The Sonoma Classical Music Society’s spring season of three more concerts can be seen at www.sonomaclassical.org.

Bronislaw Irving contributed to this review