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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

Marcia Battat Greets Performers at the Jan. 26 in Napa (N. Rorick photo)

MOSTLY MOZART WITH A LITTLE BEETHOVEN AND SOR IN NAPA

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 26, 2020

Sharing the stage with a local diva is a tough task for even seasoned musicians, but Napa College faculty soprano Christina Howell stole the show Jan. 26 when the Napa Valley Music Associates presented an eclectic program of mostly Mozart music. Somehow compositions of Sor and Beethoven joined the mix.

Before an audience of 200 in the downtown Napa First Presbyterian Church Ms. Howell appeared twice with pianist Mark Osten, singing three of Mozart’s most popular songs, and the “Et Incarnates Est” aria from the C Minor Mass, K. 427. Her resonant voice was heard well in the upper registers in the problematic acoustics of the large church, and big thematic projection was needed and came with “An Chloe” (K 524) and the nostalgic and lyrical “Abendempfindug”, K. 523.

Ms. Howell’s ebullient personality and verbal introductions from the stage enhanced her last song, “Das Veilchen” (K. 476), pairing well with Mr. Osten’s fluent pianism, though at less than mezzo forte the German words tended to be less clear, at least at the back of the church with its extended reverberation. It was dramatic and convincing singing, agile when the music demanded, and spotlighted three gems from Mozart’s compact group of art songs.

Guitarist Eric Symons then played three Sor works, with one Mozart connection in the Op. 9 Variations on “O’Cara Armonia” from the 1791 Opera “The Magic Flute.” Mr. Symon’s substantial stage presence was equaled by his un-amplified playing, and after a too long spoken introduction his plucked six-string instrument had a resonant and rich sound. He used various speeds of vibrato for effect, and the fast variants with arpeggios were telling. The Etude in B Minor followed, a piece the artist first learned at age 12, and featured symmetrical phrasing and quiet repetitions.

The final Op. 15 Sor Sonata was oddly similar to Mozart’s music, with lots of filigree, upward flourishes that equaled in clarity in contrary descending phrases in much repetition. Mr. Symons played from score but seldom looked at the music. He cradles his instrument as with a young child.

Returning with the deft Mr. Osten’s fine pianism, Ms. Howell soared often into high registers with Melisma in the aria from the Mass, showing impressive emotional power in swirling sound that often echoed the piano line. In her interpretation the work, especially in the cadenza, sounded more Romantic than Classical, and was an afternoon highlight.

Violinist Daniel Lewin joined pianist William Corbett-Jones to close the concert with Beethoven’s G major Romance, Op. 40, and Mozart’s short A Major Sonata, K. 305. Playing from score, Mr. Levin played a lovely introduction to the Romance that quickly shaded flat, but as he found his intonation footing the music (it is often played with orchestra) had more security. Mr. Corbett-Jones, a stellar Beethoven and Mozart specialist with decades of musical triumphs, played with lyrical charm.

The Sonata was performed with the requisite lightness and warm phrasing, and at times the violinist’s line was covered by the piano sound, even with the house instrument’s lid closed . It was playing in the “gallant” style with varied string vibrato, and with Mr. Corbett-Jones playing fetching legato phrases, and trading thematic statements with Mr. Lewin. They clearly have an affinity for this music. This Sonata from the late 1770s is far removed from those of Haydn, and the variations in the second movement were played in a suitably leisurely way, never heavy or demanding on the ear. It was the longest work on the program but it never seemed long.

Following audience applause Impresario Marcia Battat announced Napa Valley Music Associates concerts in March, May and June (dates TBA), and directed listeners to a gratis lavish lobby buffet with wines from the up-and-coming Lekker Napa Vineyards.