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CHAMBER REVIEW
Valley of the Moon Music Festival / Sunday, July 19, 2015
Eric Hoeprich, clarinet; Elizabeth Blumenstock, violin; Tanya Tomkins, cello; Eric Zivian, fortepiano

Eric Hoeprich, Eric Zivian, Tanya Tomkins July 19 at Sonoma's Hanna Boys Center

CLARINET MUSIC LAUNCHES NEW FESTIVAL IN SONOMA VALLEY

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 19, 2015

Among the several North Coast summer festivals in 2015 is a new one, the Valley of the Moon Music Festival, directed by San Francisco-area artists Tanya Tomkins and Eric Zivian. Itís unique in presenting seven concerts of the Classical and Romantic eras with instruments designed and mostly built when the music was written.

Held in the new auditorium of Sonomaís Hanna Boys Center, the series was inaugurated July 19 with a splendid afternoon of chamber works featuring clarinetist Eric Hoeprich. In the opening Haydn F-Sharp Minor Trio, H. XV: 26, Mr. Zivian and Ms. Tomkins were joined by stellar Baroque violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock.

The piano in the Haydn, owned by Mr. Zivian, was a reproduction of a 1795 Dutch design and allowed the pianistís fast on-top-of-the-key scales to sound well in the somber opening Allegro and the songful Adagio with its lovely decrescendo ending. As in many of Haydnís trios the minuet finale received playing of a breezy manner and jocular rhythms.

Ms. Tomkins and Messrs Zivian and Hoeprich then played Beethovenís early Clarinet Trio in B-Flat Major (Op. 11) with sharply contrasting melodic fragments and an elegant interplay of instrumental voices. The piano here was a restored 1841 Viennese instrument which was best heard in the yearning slow pace of the Adagio and the variations that made up the finale. The inane theme of the latter was often played softly with a comely cello-clarinet duo and Mr. Zivanís long virtuosic interlude before the coda.

After intermission Weberís Clarinet Variations in B Flat, Op. 33, was heard from Mr. Hoeprich and Mr. Zivian, and Glinkaís Trio Pathťtique (1832). A lovely theme characterized the Weber work, and it turned frothy as each variation unfolded. There were long solo variations for the piano where at frequent places Mr. Zivian dropped his left shoulder to accentuate a phrase ending. Both artists were adept in the syncopated dance variations. It was the concertís highlight.

Graceful cello solos were featured in the Glinka Trio, a period piece written not in the composerís Russia but in Italy. It received a polished performance with big down-keyboard skips by Mr. Zivian and dramatic clarinet phrases that carried the work above its rather routine external refinement. The piano sound here was significantly more powerful than the tiny instrument used for Haydn, and had a resonate bass and a predictably weak treble register. It seemed well suited to the three featured compositions.

Mention needs to made of the Centerís hall, a new auditorium with a wide and low stage, direct acoustics and flat-floor seating for perhaps 250. Parking and access are excellent and Hanna may well become a key Sonoma Valley musical venue. Additional Festival concerts, listed on the Classical Sonoma Calendar, are July 31 (young artists, free admission, 7:30 p.m.), August 1 (4 p.m., Mozartís Viola Quintet) and a Mozart Sonata for Violin and Mendelssohnís C Minor Trio, Op. 66, for the Festival-ending event August 2 at 4 p.m. Tickets are $40 (General) and $20 for ages below 30.