Home  Reviews  Articles  Calendar  Presenters  Add Event     
Recital
BACH AND BUXTEHUDE ORGAN MASTERY IN MORGAN'S SCHROEDER RECITAL
by James Harrod
Sunday, January 31, 2016
Stanford University organist Robert Huw Morgan played an exciting and interesting program of Baroque music in Schroeder Hall January 31, performing the entire concert with faultless virtuosity. The recital’s program consisted of both familiar and unfamiliar selections, and his choices were familiar...
Symphony
VSO SEASON FINALE FEATURES COMMANDING CONDUCTING
by Elizabeth Warnimont
Sunday, January 31, 2016
New Zealand conductor Marc Taddei led the Vallejo Symphony Jan. 31 in “The Composer's Muse,” a program that emphasized the uniqueness of each selection, in Vallejo’s Hogan Auditorium. An audience of nearly 350 was the largest in the past two seasons. The concert marks the last of three audition co...
Chamber
SCHUMANN'S INTIMATE CONVERSATIONS IN SCHROEDER
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, January 30, 2016
An ensemble of five outstanding musicians from Valley of the Moon Music Festival presented Jan. 30 a program "Schumann The Intimate Conversationalist" program to a rapt and delighted audience in Schroeder Hall. On entering the hall there was on stage the sight of an exquisite Viennese fortepiano ...
Symphony
SOLO AND ENSEMBLE BRASS PEAL POWERFULLY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 24, 2016
Known for its novel programming, the Sonoma County Philharmonic has frequently engaged local soloists, with flutist Kathleen Reynolds and pianists Lauren Xie and Marilyn Thompson coming quickly to mind. In their Jan. 23 concert, featuring German composers, conductor Norman Gamboa united a rare mid 1...
Recital
INSPIRED SCHUBERT IN BRILLIANT HAMELIN RECITAL IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, January 22, 2016
In addition his brilliant pianism, Marc-André Hamelin has built a substantial international career by embracing unconventional repertoire and innovative transcriptions. Who else plays Catoire, Hofmann, Chopin-Godowsky, Dukas, Medtner and…Hamelin? So the Canadian’s Jan. 22 Weill Hall recital was a ...
Choral and Vocal
NEW ABS MARIN SEASON A BACH FEAST
by Joanna Bramel Young
Friday, January 22, 2016
Playing to a full house Jan. 22 at St. Stephen’s Church in Belvedere, the American Bach Soloists launched its twenty-seventh season with a program of four Bach Favorites - two delectable instrumental compositions sandwiched between a pair of cantatas that ABS had performed in its very first concert....
Choral and Vocal
MEDITATIONS ON THE ARTIST
by Mark Kratz
Sunday, January 17, 2016
Schroeder Hall's vocal recital Jan. 17 centered on the life of the artist, and tenor Nicholas Phan described the recital as “meditations on the artist” that highlighted the concepts of hypersensitivity and a sense of child-like wonder that many artists experience. The entire first half of the rec...
Chamber
PRIMA TRIO'S COLORFUL MIX AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER
by Kate Gilpin
Sunday, January 17, 2016
Softly falling rain and a glimpse of rain-green trees through the windows of the Mount Tamalpais Methodist Church was the ideal background for a stunning Mill Valley Chamber Music Society performance Jan. 17. The Prima Trio, a young group comprising transplants from Armenia, Uzbekistan, and Russia...
Chamber
SCINTILLATING SCHUBERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 16, 2016
Audience members in Weill Jan. 16 that expecting a balanced, albeit conservative chamber music evening received a slight surprise with a scintillating Schubert Trio that upstaged two otherwise splendid works. Schubert a surprise? In the hands of violinist Joseph Swenson, cellist Carter Brey and en...
Recital
SUN'S WARM RECEPTION IN A CHILLY HALL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 10, 2016
Program design for a piano recital is most often a decision to perform a few big sonatas and variations, sometimes by one composer, or a smorgasbord of shorter works. Sophia Sun chose mostly the latter in her local debut recital Jan. 10 before 150 in SRJC’s Newman Auditorium. Sponsored by the Sono...
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.