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Symphony
ZOOLOGICAL THEME RESOUNDS IN SPLENDID VSO HOGAN CONCERT
by Elizabeth Warnimont
Sunday, January 25, 2015
A pair of virtuosic young pianists wowed the crowd Jan. 25 at the Vallejo Symphony Orchestra concert in Vallejo’s Hogan Auditorium, and part of the proceeds from the mostly animal-themed music benefited the Humane Society of the North Bay. Symphony conductor David Ramadanoff warmed up the afternoon...
Recital
MESMERIZING BACH AND CASALS IN MA'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 24, 2015
Cellist Yo Yo Ma’s warm friendship with North Coast audiences entered a new chapter Jan. 24 in a standing-room only and stage seats Weill Hall recital. Playing three Bach Suites for solo cello, Mr. Ma could have echoed the young Liszt’s famous comment, “the concert is me.” But the concert was real...
Choral and Vocal
A BRIGHT AXIS FOR ABS HANDEL AND BACH IN MARIN
by Joanna Bramel Young
Friday, January 23, 2015
American Bach Soloists’ opening concert of their 26th season, with performances of Bach’s beloved Fourth Brandenburg Concerto and Handel’s touchingly pastoral Acis and Galatea. The Fourth Brandenburg is one of six that Bach sent as a gift to the Margrave Christian Ludwig of Brandenburg in 17...
Recital
BRINGING NOTES TO SHIMMERING LIFE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 18, 2015
David McCarroll and Roy Bogas opened the 2015 “Sundays at Schroeder” series at the Green Music Center Jan. 18 in a recital that featured admirable virtuosity and a provocative repertoire. They began with Mozart’s two-movement E Minor Sonata, K. 304. The work is at turns is sinister and tranquil, a...
Symphony
AMERICANA WITH A FLASHING BOW
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 11, 2015
Mark O'Connor is an extraordinary fiddler, as he amply demonstrated via his bravura performance with the Santa Rosa Symphony on Sunday afternoon. Whether he is an extraordinary composer is open to debate. The audience had ample time to judge O'Connor's compositional skills during the program, half ...
Chamber
MOZART IN THE MIX
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 11, 2015
Napa Valley Music Associates 20th annual Mozart concert Jan. 11 was a mostly Mozart event at the Jamieson Ranch Vineyards, but five mostly romantic composers happily joined the musical mix. Jassen Todorov was the featured violinist in two Sonatas, the F Major (K. 377) and the B Flat (K. 378), partn...
Chamber
WINDS WARM LAKEPORT CHAMBER CONCERT
by Cathy Kaiser
Sunday, January 11, 2015
The cold winter weather, so common to Lake County in January, gave way to warm winds Jan.11 as the La Voce Del Vento Chamber Players presented their first concert of 2015 with guest pianist Aaron Ames. Formed in 1982 by bassoonist Ann Hubbard, La Voce Del Vento (The Voice of the Wind) introduced Lak...
RICH PALETTE OF CELLO COLORS IN ARRON-PARK OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 08, 2015
Rachmaninoff’s haunting cello sonata highlighted Music at Oakmont’s first 2015 concert Jan. 8 in the retirement community’s spacious Berger Auditorium. In a reading that was both muscular and lush cellist Edward Arron and pianist Jeewon Park explored the ripe romanticism of the Russian’s 1901 G Min...
Choral and Vocal
ABS PERFORMS HANDEL'S MESSIAH IN TRIUMPHAL WEILL HALL DEBUT
by Joanna Bramel Young
Sunday, December 21, 2014
The American Bach Soloists (ABS) made their Sonoma County debut at Weill Hall December 19, performing the three-hour-long oratorio “Messiah” to a full house. In the 25 years since its founding in Marin the ABS has achieved world renown, and has long performed regularly in Belvedere, San Francisco, ...
Chamber
NEW CENTURY AND SF CHORUS CHARMS WEILL AUDIENCE IN CHRISTMAS PROGRAM
by Sonia Tubridy
Friday, December 12, 2014
On December 12 a good-sized audience came out of the cold evening into the warmth and light of Weill Hall, and soon the regal warmth and light of beautiful music filled the auditorium and hearts of those present. Violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg with New Century Chamber Orchestra launched into a s...
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.