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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
Chamber
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
Valley of the Moon Music Festival / Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Kyle Stegall, tenor; Eric Zivian, piano

Tenor Kyle Stegall

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 Josephine Lang.

The music of Lang, a contemporary of Fanny (sister of Felix) Mendelssohn and Clara (wife of Robert) Schumann, is a find. In this century the works of many women who were composing in relative obscurity two centuries ago are now being rediscovered and brought to light. Ms. Lang was a prodigy who composed many dozens of lieder, piano, and chamber works and, like Clara and Fanny, her works were esteemed highly enough to be published and performed. But music historians either were not aware of Lang's output or simply excluded her from textbooks and anthologies because she was female, and didn't have a famous name. At any rate I had never heard of her as I should have, since she was a composer of outstanding art songs and chamber music.

Born in the year 1815 and active as pianist and composer beginning in her teens until her death in 1880, Lang composed these six songs between 1847 and 1860. Her work shows the same melodic and pianistic skills as her contemporaries, harmonic invention, text setting and accompaniments are all comparable to the best of the era. They are lovely songs, highly singable and accessible, with the expected lyricism and soulful ruminating on the beloved, full of melancholy desire, momentary joy, eternal woe and fresh yearnings. Lang's songs should be included in anthologies alongside all the other established and heretofore ignored women composers.

In this recital six well-chosen songs of contrasting nature were presented: "Abschied" ("Parting", 1847), Den Abschied schnell genommen" ("Parting taken quickly", 1848), "Namenlos" ("Nameless", 1847), "Im reinsten Gold" ("In purest gold", 1872), "Die Blumen sind alle verblüht" ("The flowers are all faded", 1872) and "Frühlingsglaube" ("Faith in Spring" 1860).

Without any exaggeration it can be said that Mr. Stegall and Mr. Zivian gave a definitive performance of these songs, sadly only via zoom, leaving me wishing for the in-person experience. Mr. Stegall's controlled yet lyrically soaring tenor and Mr. Zivian's electricity and sensitivity at the fortepiano transported us to what could have been an evening in Clara Schumann's salon.

Mr. Stegall's appears to have experienced some vocal settling and maturation since I first heard him two years ago. Technically very secure, he floated through the text-rich yet legato phrases, maintaining an intimate speaking-like quality throughout. Interpretatively his moods ranged from reverie-like to the poignantly desperate to brimming with joy as he contemplated the joys or pains of love, longing and separation, projecting the words with focused understanding and feeling. Lang's settings do not shy away from the upper register, and his top notes bloomed dramatically for a very fulfilling performance of these heady songs.

As always, Mr. Zivian's illuminations are a masterclass in collaborative piano. Every nuance is highlighted, every phrase perfectly shaped, every dynamic coaxed from the beautiful Rausch fortepiano. Personally he is magnetic, enthralling the audience with his listening and watching and bringing attention to every musical-emotional detail of poem and score.

One of the most important aspects of singing and playing art songs is the rigorous language requirement for professional singers and pianists who are non-native speakers. Correct and idiomatic pronunciation and meaning of not just one, but several European "singing" languages is daunting for many and translates into years of intense study and practice to get it right. That hard preparation and accomplishment was discernible here and duly appreciated.

The room setting for this recording is beautiful, but surprisingly there were some sound issues not present on the previous video performance of Beethoven and Brahms which was perfect.