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Chamber
EVEREST AND A MAGIC STEED
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, June 24, 2016
Program three of SSU’s ongoing ChamberFest, directed by Jeffrey Kahane, was an afternoon concert and opened with Mozart's E-Flat Divertimento string trio, K. 563, a piece in its own category and a first of its kind when composed by Mozart in 1776. Many string quartets by that time been composed and ...
Chamber
MENDELSSOHN, SCHUBERT AND MOZART AGAIN SOAR IN SCHROEDER
by Sonia Morse Tubridy and Nicki Bell
Friday, June 24, 2016
Program four of ChamberFest 2016 was the second June 24 concert in one day, and there was an abundance of musical offerings and enrichment. Jeffrey Kahane and Jon Kimura Parker started the evening in Schroeder with Mendelssohn's A Major Andante and Allegro Brilliant, Op. 92, for piano four hands. Th...
Chamber
ACROSS VAST SPACES
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Thursday, June 23, 2016
Program number two of this summer’s ChamberFest at Schroeder Hall June 23 was all one could wish for, second to none. Jeffrey Kahane and Jon Kimura Parker returned to play together, this time on two pianos. As they engagingly explained, it is a completely different experience than playing four hands...
Chamber
CHARM AND SMILES IN FIRST CHAMBERFEST CONCERT IN SCHROEDER
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
The Green Music Center’s summer ChamberFest, seven concerts in five days, opened June 22 to a jammed Schroeder Hall audience, and the initial concert was both delightful and exhilarating. In its second year, the current Festival features the chamber music of Mozart, Schubert and Mendelssohn, all m...
Opera
FROTHY FROLICKING AT CINNABAR'S MAGICAL FLUTE
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, June 11, 2016
Though having just two acts, Mozart’s Opera “The Magic Flute” encompasses a jumbled fairy tale plot with complicated staging and myriad performers in demanding vocal roles. Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater took up the arduous challenge of this 1791 work, among Mozart’s last, in a series of performances ...
Symphony
A SOUND TO BEHOLD
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, May 07, 2016
Concert titles are rarely specific, but the one for the Santa Rosa Symphony’s May 7 concert, “Jazzy Impressions,” is as literal as they get. The first half consisted of two American pieces influenced by jazz, and the second of two French works in the impressionist style. Pairing two similar pieces ...
Recital
AT THE BOUNDARIES OF MUSICAL EXPLORATION
by Sonia Morse Tubridy and Nicki Bell
Friday, May 06, 2016
On May 6 at Weill Hall, pianist Yuja Wang gave a much-anticipated recital of Brahms, Schumann and Beethoven. This young artist has been heralded internationally for her brilliant virtuosic technique and sensational performances. In this recital, her first to focus on a Beethoven sonata, she played h...
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...
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.