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GAULIST FLAVOR IN FINAL SF PIANO FESTIVAL CONCERT AT OLD FIRST
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, August 29, 2021
Final summer music festival programs are often a mix of what has come before, with the theme and even a featured composer taking a last stage appearance, with a dramatic wrap up composition. San Francisco’s International Piano Festival defied the norm August 29 with an eclectic French-flavored prog
SPARE DUO PRECEDES MYSTEROUS DUO AT DEN BOER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, August 27, 2021
In a departure from usual summer festival fare Julia Den Boer played an August 27 virtual recital in the San Francisco Piano Festival’s 4.5 season with four works, all mostly quiet but all in separate ways insistently demanding of artist and listener. Throughout the 40 minutes there was nary a powe
HARMONIC COMPLEXITY IN PHILLIPS' ALL-GRIFFES RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, August 20, 2021
Charles Griffes’ piano music is similar to that of Busoni, Reger and even Poulenc, in that there is a sporadic flourish of interest with concerts and scholarly work, then a quick fade into another long period of obscurity. So, it was a delight to have an all-Griffes recital August 20 on the San F
Chamber
ONE PIANO, TWO PIANO, THREE PIANO, FORE
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 29, 2021
Schroeder Hall was nearly full July 29 for the final pianoSonoma concert of their season, and presumably the draw and highlight for many of the 150 attending was Bach’s Concerto for Four Pianos. And that performance was probably going to be a North Bay premiere. However, it wasn’t the highl
Chamber
PENULTIMATE VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT FEATURES GORGEOUS VOCALISM
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Thursday, July 29, 2021
The 2021 Valley of the Moon Music Festival continued on July 29 with a sumptuous online offering of French songs, concluding with the second piano quartet by Fauré, Op. 45. Such a beautiful bouquet of video performances wonderfully filmed and recorded softened the disappointment of not being able to
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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
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BOGAS' TENURE ENDS IN OUTDOOR GUALALA CHAMBER CONCERT
by Iris Lorenzfife
Sunday, July 25, 2021
The preconcert call that music lovers should gather at Gualala Arts July 25 to attend the final Roy Bogas and Friends Concert was not quite as dire as it sounded. It seems that a year of Covid 19 and an 88th birthday had combined to convince Mr. Bogas that he was working too hard. But with cellist P
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 “
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RARE LANG SONGS SPARKLE AT VOM FESTIVAL VIDEO RECITAL
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Unexpected pleasures are often the best. Valley of the Moon Chamber Festival presented a such a pleasure last week-a July 21 recorded performance by tenor Kyle Stegall and pianist Eric Zivian in another mini-recital (very mini-just 15 minutes!) of six songs by the nineteenth century German composer
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 REVIEW
Piano Sonoma / Tuesday, July 20, 2021
Peter Dugan and Christine Wu, piano; Kara Dugan, mezzo-soprano

Mezzo-soprano Kara Dugan

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 piano and song literature, emotionally diverse and warming to the soul. In his introduction Festival founder Michael Shinn assured the masked audience of 110 that everyone on stage was vaccinated, an important consideration since one of the three performers was a singer.

Pianist Peter Dugan in 2020 became the host of the NPR show From the Top, a program devoted to showcasing young classical musicians. His impressive technique at the piano is complemented by his vivid personality as a presenter, and together with spouse mezzo-soprano Kara Dugan the duo bantered charmingly with each other and the audience. A quick peek at one of their Covid home broadcasts for From the Top revealed the same kind of engagement that makes classical music approachable for the uninitiated as well as a knowledgeable audience, young and old alike.

Mr. Dugan, who also serves as the head of pianoSonoma's Artist in Residence Program, played like a conductor/coach but with full-on virtuosity, a bit reminiscent of Leonard Bernstein. Besides his thrilling playing, his attention to text and nuance makes even a sedate art song exciting.

Ms. Dugan's choice of three favorite Mozart lieder was like a welcome visit from old friends. "Als Luise die Briefe ihres ungetreuen Liebhabers verbrannte" (one of the longest song titles ever - "As Luise burned the letters from her unfaithful lover") was punctuated by woeful, angry, yet never harsh, declamations. The love song "An Chloë" landed sweetly, and her rich and strikingly beautiful voice sustained the long lines of "Abendempfindung" effortlessly.

Their second set involved three songs by Finnish composers Sibelius (poems by the uncredited Finnish poet Runeberg who wrote poems in Swedish) and Toivo Kuula (text uncredited), less familiar but engaging nonetheless, and powerfully performed. It would have been helpful to have had the text translations included in the printed program since it's unlikely that anybody in the audience understood Swedish or Finnish.

Their third set exploded with three selections from de Falla's ever popular Siete Canciones Populares Españolas. Mr. Dugan literally set the piano on fire, and here is where I felt Ms. Dugan sang at her most effective. Her voice, technique and musicality are consistent throughout, but she tends to be a little reserved as a stage performer. In these de Falla songs she gave us more thrills together with the beauty and technique and musicianship. A more extroverted presence and some volatile artistic temperament surely resides in this gifted singer already, and would complete the picture for this listener.

In a nod for solo piano, Christine Wu played Chopin’s four Mazurkas from Op. 17. These magical works from 1833 are usually played either with careful rubato emphasizing structure (Artur Rubinstein) or with spirited dance rhythms (Ignaz Friedman). Ms. Wu chose neither, playing a muscular B-Flat Major (No. 1) that seemed overly loud with the instrument’s bright top, and aggressively continued in the long A-Flat Major (No. 3) that underscored offbeat accents.

The best playing came in the concluding A Minor where she let more air into the rhythms and at the return of the plaintive and nostalgic main theme let the damper pedal craft a lovely overlapping phrase. The short repeat at the end was played with an eerie quiet, highlighting the Mazurka’s subtle mystery.

Additional concerts in the series are July 27 (songs; music for cello) and July 29, with Bach’s Concerto for Four Keyboards and the world premiere of Thomas Cabaniss’ “Trinity Pass.”

Terry McNeill contributed to this review.