Home  Reviews  Articles  Calendar  Presenters  Add Event     
Symphony
SOLO BRILLIANCE IN SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 17, 2024
Opera
OPERA GEMS IN COZY SEBASTOPOL THEATER
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Friday, February 9, 2024
Choral and Vocal
LUSTROUS VOCAL SOUND AT KUZMA'S SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Sunday, February 4, 2024
Symphony
HAYDEN'S SAXOPHONE CONCERTO AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Ron Teplitz
Sunday, January 28, 2024
Chamber
SPIRITUAL STRING MUSIC IN BLACK OAK ENSEMBLE'S MARIN CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 28, 2024
Chamber
VIRTUOSIC HARP RECITAL AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE SERIES
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, January 24, 2024
Chamber
EMOTIONAL BLOCH PIECE HIGHLIGHTS PELED'S RAC RECITAL
by Peter Lert
Sunday, January 21, 2024
Chamber
OYSTER TRIO AT THE ROSE SIGNATURE SERIES
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 14, 2024
Chamber
CANTABILE CHARMS IN MIXED 222 GALLERY CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 13, 2024
Choral and Vocal
A GRAND DIVA'S SHIMMERING AND PROVOCATIVE RECITAL IN WEILL HALL
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Thursday, January 11, 2024
CHAMBER REVIEW
Green Music Center / Saturday, March 5, 2016
Tanya Tomkins, cello; Eric Zivian, fortepiano

Cellist Tanya Tomkins

VAL MOON MINI FESTIVAL ENDS WITH SPIRITUAL BEETHOVEN SONATAS

by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, March 5, 2016

In the final of four chamber music concerts by Valley of the Moon Festival musicians, three of Beethoven's iconic cello and piano sonatas were played March 5 to an appreciative audience in Schroeder Hall.

Cellist Tanya Tomkins and fortepianist Eric Zivian performed on historic instruments appropriate to the Classic and Romantic eras. Built in Berkeley in the 1980s, Mr. Zivian's instrument is modeled on a 1796 piano and with a wooden frame is closer to a harpsichord than to a modern piano. The 1811 cello with gut strings allows excellent articulation and the two instruments match and blend well in addition to providing impressive clarity of sound. The three sonatas, Opus 5, No. 2 in G Minor, Opus 102, No. 2 in D Major, and the A Major, Op. 69, are from respectively Beethoven's early, late and middle periods. The performers gave spoken historical and biographical background to these pieces and created a warm informal atmosphere for the concert.

Composed by the young Beethoven who was traveling frequently and making a name for himself as a pianist, composer and improviser, the G Minor Sonata opened the program. The piano part is virtuosic but starts quietly allowing the cello part to grow out of the hushed piano themes. After a very long silence, a surprise burst into Allegro/Presto juxtaposes strength and fragility, lyricism and drama. The musicians conversed and sang through their instruments, always sensitive and collaborating with improvisatory freshness. The separations between performers, composer and listeners were cast away and replaced by a unified musical experience. The Rondo movement was full of humor and delightful rubato touches. It was mock serious and then playful, sweeping passages propelling wild joy to an exuberant ending. Notable were the clear accompanying figures on the cello and variety of color in tone. The fortepiano upper register was bell-like and the bass sometimes growled and twanged in loud passages to great effect.

The following piece on the program is actually the last of Beethoven's cello/piano sonatas, and here piano and cello are composed as equal partners. The Allegro con brio starts and startles with upward shooting figures. There are moments of calm and then rapid Baroque-like sixteenth note passages. Not always easy to understand, the music wanders the landscape of modern sounds in a "progressive and adventurous" fashion. This is the world of his Opus 130 string quartet.

The Adagio is heartbreaking in its beauty and tragedy. Cello and piano phrases evoked murmurs and cries of the soul with wonderful expressiveness. A major lyrical section flows and consoles until a suspenseful slipping downward harmonically leads through a questioning fragment to the finale, a strange complex fugue. Here Beethoven looks to the future and beyond. The two instruments weave and tease, shocking the ear with dissonances and complex cross rhythms that are often jazzy and frequently baffling. It was a masterful rendition, played with a combination of lightness and power.

In the A major Sonata after the intermission the opening cello theme with its rising fifth and weaving elegance was a superb legato followed by piano flourishes, the instruments trading ideas and emotions. The cello sometimes sounded like a viola and pizzicato passages were lively and resonant. The two virtuosi went deep and rose from mystical and mysterious moments to heroism. The Scherzo was crisp and very rhythmical, played with extended offbeat phrases and lovely pizzicato effects at the end.

Finally the Allegro vivace completed this mini Beethoven Festival with romantically lyrical themes and flying passages for both instruments creating palpable audience excitement. After searching, yearning, some hopelessness and doubt, the key of A major returns gloriously at the exciting end and Beethoven emerges from turbulent waters triumphant.

Joanna Bramel Young contributed to this review