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Recital
A WANDERING MILLER IN SCHUBERT'S AGELESS CYCLE
by Mark Kratz
Sunday, April 24, 2016
The Green Center’s Weill Hall is a Sonoma County treasure that allows North Bay audiences to enjoy the world’s finest musicians against the backdrop of our grapevine-covered hills. German baritone Matthias Goerne and pianist Alexander Schmalcz presented a recital of Schubert’s song cycle "Die Schön...
Recital
EERIE SCHUBERT AND SOPORIFIC BRAHMS IN MIDORI RECITAL IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 23, 2016
California has long been a big part of Midori Goto’s career, and she now teaches and tours from the USC campus in Los Angeles. After never performing in Sonoma County, the violinist’s area debut April 23 in Weill was a moderate success before an audience of 800 that included a large sprinkling of s...
Choral and Vocal
EASTER AND ASCENSION ORATORIOS SOAR IN ABS MARIN CONCERT
by Joanna Bramel Young
Friday, April 22, 2016
Three baroque composers were brought together April 22 at the American Bach Soloists‘ offering of oratorios: Buxtehude, Johann Kuhnau and Bach. In Belvedere’s St. Stephen’s Church the ABS highlighted the sequence of influence for these three masters, displaying stunning choral singing, virtuoso in...
Recital
CHRISTIE RETURNS TO SCHROEDER WITH THE FAMILIAR AND THE NEW
by James Harrod
Sunday, April 17, 2016
Organist James David Christie returned to Schroeder Hall on the SSU campus April 17 to play an awesome concert of Baroque music on the Hall’s Brombough Opus 9 organ. The artist performed to a large appreciative and attentive audience, and presented both familiar and unknown musical selections from t...
Choral and Vocal
CHANTICLEER SINGS TO THE MOON IN WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, April 16, 2016
The renowned male a cappella  Chanticleer choir presented an "Over the Moon" program April 15 at the Green Music Centers Weill Hall.  The audience, including many choral music cognoscenti, was entranced by a varied and enriching program spanning centuries and continents. The theme of the evening was...
Symphony
SPANISH SPLENDOR IN SO CO PHIL'S SEASON FINALE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 10, 2016
Two program staples for the Sonoma County Philharmonic have been works of a Latin flavor, and spotlighting local soloists. Conductor Norman Gamboa has mounted intriguing Central American, Mexican and Spanish works for years, and flutist Kathleen Lane Reynolds, pianists Alice Zhu Lauren Xie, and tro...
Recital
OAKMONT 25TH ANNIVERSARY CONCERT FEATURES KAHANE'S SCHUBERT AND CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 10, 2016
Jeffery Kahane spreads his musical largess widely. Since leaving a Sonoma County residence for Colorado the pianist has returned often for performances, the most recent the wildly successful ChamberFest series at the Green Music Center last summer. April 10 found him again in Sonoma County, this t...
Symphony
COLORFUL FALLA AND PROVOCATIVE BRITTEN WORKS IN SRS WEILL HALL CONCERTS
by Terry McNeill
Monday, April 04, 2016
Current fashion in orchestra season marketing showcases themes, and it’s de rigueur now, from the fledgling Sonoma County Philharmonic to the august San Francisco Symphony. Some of these themes are inane, but the Santa Rosa Symphony’s set of three concerts beginning April 2, with the event ...
Recital
LISZT AND CHOPIN THE VEHICLE FOR ELEGANT PIANISM IN WATTS' WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Nicki Bell
Friday, April 01, 2016
In the public eye for more than 50 years, Andre Watts is a legendary American pianist from the bygone era of William Kapell and Gary Graffman. Dressed in concert tails, old fashioned now to some, he reverted April 1 to a another long ago virtuoso’s choice by bringing to his Weill Hall recital his o...
Choral and Vocal
RUTTER REQUIEM PERFORMANCE ENNOBLES GOOD FRIDAY CONCERT AT INCARNATION
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 25, 2016
There is a lot to like in John Rutter’s Requiem. Composed in 1985, it’s arguably the most performed large choral work of recent times, and it was a labor of love for choral director Carol Menke’s musicians in a memorable Good Friday concert in Santa Rosa’s Church of the Incarnation. Splendid Requi...
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.