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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 “
Chamber
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 / Thursday, July 29, 2021
Emily Marvosh, contralto; Lisa Lee, violin; Liana Bérubé, viola; Tanya Tomkins, cello; Eric Zivian, piano

Contralto Emily Marvosh

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 experience them in person.

Included in the program were seven well-known nineteenth century mélodies: "L'Absence" from Nuits d'été ("Summer Nights") by Berlioz, "À une fleur" ("To a Flower") by Bizet, "Fleur Déssèchée" ("Dried Flower") by Pauline Viardot, Fauré’s "Arpège" followed by Debussy's Chansons de Bilitis: "La Flûte de Pan" (The Flute of Pan"), "La Chevelure" ("Tresses"), and "Le Tombeau de Naïades" ("The Tomb of Naiads"). Sung with warmth of both voice and personality by contralto Emily Marvosh, and played charmingly and emotionally by pianist Eric Zivian, I especially enjoyed the Debussy for its dreamy and evocative piano part and the seductive, quietly conversational melodies of these odd and fantastical poems.

The first three songs were recorded with the Rausch fortepiano in the familiar music room, and the last four songs and the quartet were recorded on a curtained theater stage with a modern piano. For this performance I actually preferred the sound in the curtained venue than in the "Rausch" room, which was a bit too bouncy for the harmonically complex piano accompaniments.

Ms. Marvosh sings with a lovely, rich, and evenly produced contralto, which in these songs sounded appropriately lighter weight and more mezzo-ish than alto-ish. The combination of her natural dark color with a beautifully even and weightless spinning of tone is effortless. Her French is clear and easy to follow and she communicates intelligently and warmly, but a little more spice could be added to create more interest in the poetry. My only wish is that she had been off-book, which surely would have added that missing element. The necessity of glancing back and forth from the score robs her of the complete artistic experience I believe she is capable of, and also robs the audience of her considerable expressive gifts.

On this subject (since I have mentioned it in other reviews), it occurred to me that curiously it does not break focus at all when pianists and other instrumentalists are reading from a score during performance, but that it does indeed interfere when a singer is using notes, and I think it is partly because the singer is multitasking text and music simultaneously, an already complicated mental exercise, more so when the language is not one’s own.

Then there is the convention of classical recital singing, which involves the expectation of a focused gaze or even eye contact with the audience, and if a singer is using music, even if only as a prompt, then eye contact, and therefore communication, is constantly being broken to glance at the music.

If a singer can master the technique of never looking at the music in the middle of a phrase, and looking only during a rest, the breakage is minimized, rather like the theatrical skill of looking at the conductor without appearing to be looking at them. Ms. Marvosh used music on all her selections and dealt very well with the challenge, but her performance would have have been even more impressive had she been free from the printed page. This wonderful artist and her video audience deserve the complete experience.

Mr. Zivian is a stellar pianist and I feel like a broken record singing his praises once again. But sing them I must. His work on the songs, particularly the Debussy, was inspiring as expected, the dream playing every singer covets. His work on the G Minor Fauré quartet was astonishing and the ensemble were beyond superlative. Watching them commune with each other in the fiery Scherzo was both transporting and revelatory. Violinist Lisa Lee played with a combination of accurate intonation, passion and delicacy. Violist Liana Bérubé and cellist Tanya Tomkins were sonically perfectly matched, playing with gorgeous string tone, subtle dynamic contrasts and ensemble.

Of course Fauré's Quartet (1886) is beloved for its compactness and interwoven harmonies and interplay. The noble adagio is certainly one of the most beautiful in the repertoire, where the viola and cello have a chance to shine. This was a truly memorable performance.