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Symphony
REFRESHMENT FOR OUR SPIRITS
by Sonia Tubridy
Friday, May 08, 2015
On Friday, May 8, Jeffrey Kahane delivered a tour-de-force piano recital at Weill Hall. The program consisted two great sets of variations for piano, Bach's brilliant Goldberg Variations and Beethoven's Opus 109 Sonata, whose third movement offers transcendent variations on a simple theme. Kahane o...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY MASTERS MAHLER'S THIRD
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 03, 2015
Among Romantic symphonists, Mahler is the king of climaxes; he surges from one to the next orgiastically. His third symphony is a perfect example: It begins strong, fades to quietude, resurges to maximum amplitude, and repeats the process. For listeners willing to ride these waves, the experience ca...
Choral and Vocal
ABS CLOSES 26TH SEASON WITH POTENT BACH AND VIVALDI WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Friday, May 01, 2015
In a May 1 program that balanced vocal and instrumental virtuosity the American Bach Soloists closed their 26th season in grand style in Belvedere’s austere St. Stephen’s Church. Led by the indomitable conductor Jeffrey Thomas the first half of the program featured a rarely heard cello concerto, a ...
Symphony
MOUNT TSUJII ERUPTS AT THE GREEN MUSIC CENTER
by Nicki Bell
Friday, May 01, 2015
A great painter changes the way we see and understand the world. The extraordinary Nobuyuki Tsujii, a 25-year-old Japanese pianist blind since birth, changes the way we hear music. He has a transformative power. Formidable technique, a staggering mastery of pianistic and tonal color, surprising temp...
Recital
WEILERSTEIN-BARNATAN DUO IN WEILL - REVIEW ONE
by Joel Cohen
Sunday, April 26, 2015
The MasterCard Performance Series in Weill Hall featured an April 26 recital by cellist Alisa Weilerstein and pianist Inon Barnatan. In Beethoven’s substantial D Major sonata, Op.102, No. 2, the duo were clearly at ease with both the technical demands of the writing and with each other. They show...
Recital
WEILERSTEIN-BARNATAN DUO IN WEILL - REVIEW TWO
by Robert Hayden
Sunday, April 26, 2015
This was one of those concerts which far exceeded my expectations. I have heard Alisa Weilerstein several times before, as a colleague in concerts with Jeffrey Kahane, but she has matured and is certainly now one of America’s pre-eminent cellists. Playing before a sadly half empty Weill Hall audie...
Recital
STELLAR TRIO PLAYS ICONIC CHAMBER WORKS IN WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 19, 2015
Virtuoso instrumentalists frequently get together in a trio for a few concerts with the resulting playing being exciting but the performance sounding a little unfinished. This was decidedly not what happened with the Mutter-Bronfman-Harrell Trio April 19 in Weill, as the two works on the program ha...
Symphony
LUMINOUS SOUND IN SF SYMPHONY WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 16, 2015
Though the Santa Rosa Symphony is the Green Music Center’s resident orchestra, when the San Francisco Symphony plays Weill Hall they take total artistic ownership. In the penultimate of the four annual Bay Area run outs the SFS played a compelling program April 16 of four masterworks with flawless ...
Symphony
WARM RAMADANOFF FAREWELL IN VSO'S MARE ISLAND CONCERT
by Elizabeth Warnimont
Sunday, April 12, 2015
Vallejo bid a fond farewell April 12 to a pillar of the arts community in a concert on Vallejo's Mare Island, as David Ramadanoff directed the Vallejo Symphony in his last concert as conductor. A polite but somber mood hung over Lander hall Sunday and was as pronounced as the notes produced by the ...
Symphony
CONCERTO KÖLN DELIGHTS WITH RARELY-HEARD BAROQUE WORKS
by Joanna Bramel Young
Saturday, April 11, 2015
Weill Hall resonated April 11 with an agreeable group of Baroque works not often heard, though the composers are in fact well known. This assured, skilled plumbing of quiet corners of the repertoire is the specialty of Concerto Köln, based in Cologne, Germany, but received with pleasure throughout t...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Sonoma Classical Music Society / Sunday, March 25, 2012
Nigel Armstrong, violin. Marilyn Thompson, piano.

Violinist Nigel Armstrong

ARMSTRONG BRINGS DOWN THE HOUSE

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 25, 2012

Local boy makes good was the operative theme March 26 when violinist Nigel Armstrong played a recital before a jammed Andrews Hall in downtown Sonoma, the event produced by the Sonoma Chamber Music Society. From Mr. Armstrong’s initial entrance with pianist Marilyn Thompson to a final raucous encore, the audience seemed to hang on every note and bodily movement of the young violinist.

The first half, consisting of Beethoven’s “Spring Sonata” and the Debussy Sonata, was problematical. Andrews Hall is not a kind acoustical space, with its high ceiling, plaster walls and surprisingly almost zero reverberation. The result was heavy piano dominance. Frequently one saw Mr. Armstrong’s flashing bow but not enough sound from him, especially in the scherzo and the finale (Rondo) pizzicato. Tempos in the Spring Sonata were moderate, the interpretation fluent and impressive in the long line of the Adagio, but on the whole a routine performance without special flair.

Debussy’s 1917 masterwork in G Minor, his last fully completed work, received some lovely playing that underscored its harmonic ambiguities. Mr. Armstrong’s soft playing in the opening Allegro Vivo was lovely, and in the high tessitura of the "Intèrmede" his vibrato widened but varied little, the ending soaring over a hushed crowd that included three rows of stage seats.

In a program change, the violinist skipped Ernst’s “Last Rose of Summer” variations and played the four-movement Ysäye solo Sonata No 2. Mr. Armstrong’s affinity with virtuoso works was on display in this composition, with many quotes from Bach (Third Partita) and the "Dies Irae" theme. The Sarabande was especially bouncy, the pizzicato and double stop effects performed with clean articulation. Mr. Armstrong played the "Les Furies" finale letting in a lot of air, the short motifs interrupted by rests and vigorously accented. It was a highlight of the afternoon.

Ms. Thompson then returned to the piano, whose lid had gone from short stick to no stick, and played Faure’s fetching Op. 75 Andante with the violinist. Instrumental balance had markedly improved, and the performance was sui generis Faure. Though rarely programmed, the piece is instantly recognizable, and it was performed without score, as were all the pieces in the second part. Faure's melancholic loveliness mated well with the following Tchaikovsky Op. 42 Melody, the third of three short pieces from an 1878 Suite the composer wrote at his patron’s country estate. The interpretation lacked rhythmic flexibility as musical schmaltz in the Melody is highly desirable!

Mr. Armstrong’s signature piece, Saint-Saëns’ "Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso," concluded the formal program. It was originally written for violin and orchestra, so the piano transcription is a daunting combination of fiery instrumental skips and slides for the fiddle, and it drew from the Ms. Thompson her most forceful and bass heavy playing of the program. A thunderous standing ovation was the result.

But Mr. Armstrong was not done yet, and in an encore anticipated by many in the hall he played Corigliano’s "Stomp." This solo work was commissioned by the 14th Tchaikovsky International Violin Competition in 2011, to be played by all competitors, with the sheet music received by each shortly before the Moscow Competition. It’s a whirlwind of dissonant notes and chopped phrases, and to everyone’s delight involved briefly playing the violin behind the back and resounding right-food stomps in various sequences. Intoxicating!

Needless to say, it brought down the house and the artist reveled in the warm affection and excitement his playing brought to his hometown fans.

Robert Hayden contributed to this review.