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Chamber
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Symphony
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Other
DINOVA PIANISM CHARMS SATED AUDIENCE AT J-B MARIN RECITAL
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CHAMBER REVIEW
Valley of the Moon Music Festival / Saturday, July 24, 2021
Rachel Ellen Wong, violin; Tanya Tomkins, cello; Eric Zivian, piano

Violinist Rachell Ellen Wong

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 “Friendship,” the concert began with two short pieces that passed without much notice – Louise Farrenc’s Impromptu and Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel’s Adagio. Eric Zivian played the piano in each, with violinist Rachell Ellen Wong joining for the Adagio. Farrenc’s music, recently played by Marin’s ECHO Orchestra, is predictable early romantic writing of little interest. Hensel’s work is occasionally heard with viola, and moves along for under four minutes with some charm, Ms. Wong’s lyrical treble notes were strong with quick ascending and ascending scale passages from Mr. Zivian.

Clara Schumann’s G Minor Trio, Op.17, was the concert’s center and substance. It’s not her strongest composition, but has lovely melodies and throughout the pianist supplied thoughtful bass line support to cellist Tanya Tomkins and Ms. Wong. The composer here gives much prominence to the cello, long before Dvorák and Brahms did, and criticism of the piece usually centers on it being derivative. And it is, and in the long first movement one hears Weber and Robert Schumann’s music, again with thematic declarations by Mr. Zivian. So what, derivative can be splendid. The “wooden” hammer sound and minimal sustain and volume from the c. 1840 piano is an acquired taste, to me mostly okay but often barely so in Romantic era music.

Ms. Tomkins' playing in the Andante was a rich melting cello line, and the duos with Ms. Wong were captivating.

Commentators often cite Haydn and Schubert influences, but I hear none, especially in the pungent Allegretto that concludes the 1847 work. It was animated playing, fresh modulations bringing on forceful phrasing and fervent ensemble that had clarity, especially in the fugal section that returned once with violence.

Responding to warm applause, the trio was joined by violist Andrew Gonzales for an encore – Robert Schumann’s slow Andante Cantabile movement from his E Flat Quartet, Op. 47. The playing was bathed in luxurious romanticism, the slow phrases blending into a colorful tapestry of sultry sound, and Ms. Tomkins’ cello artistry was elegant.