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Symphony
BRANDENBURGS A SPIRITUAL GIFT IN FINAL CHAMBERFEST CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, June 28, 2015
“Well, you should have been there.” A trite saying used too often by concertgoers? Sure. But surely it was the appropriate adage for the final Chamberfest concert June 28 in Sonoma State’s Weill Hall. Capping a nine-event series mostly in Schroeder Hall, Jeffrey Kahane led ensembles of up to 20 ...
Recital
TWO EXEMPLARY ORGAN RECITALS HIGHLIGHT CHAMBERFEST
by James Harrod
Sunday, June 28, 2015
Baroque music aficionados and organists were glued to their seats at Chamberfest’s June 27 and 28 when Malcolm Matthews performed two amazingly perfect recitals of Baroque organ music from North Europe of the 16th and 17th centuries. The two prodigious concerts included no less than 17 selections,...
Chamber
INTREPID VIRTUOSITY IN PAREMSKI'S BRAHMS VARIATIONS
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 26, 2015
Sonoma County organist James Harrod contributed the organ work analysis in this review. Pianist Natasha Paremski had the stellar role June 26 in the third Chamberfest program in Schroeder Hall, beginning with Beethoven’s A Flat Sonata, Op. 110. Classical Sonoma was unable to review the Sonat...
Chamber
STERLING BHAHMS AND BEETHOVEN WITH AN ADDITIONAL B IN JUNE 26 SCHROEDER CONCERT
by Nicki Bell and Sonia Tubridy
Friday, June 26, 2015
Chamberfest’s June 26 evening concert began not with music but with informative and insightful remarks by Festival Artistic Director Jeffrey Kahane. He spoke of Busoni, one of the handful of greatest pianists of the 20th Century, a teacher and composer whose name was linked with Bach through salien...
Chamber
INSPIRATIONAL BEETHOVEN AND BRAHMS HIGHLIGHT SECOND CHAMBERFEST CONCERT
by Sonia Tubridy
Thursday, June 25, 2015
Chamberfest’s second program in Schroeder Hall June 25, extravagantly organized by Jeffrey Kahane, once again gave the audience extraordinary programming and performances, uniting Bach, Beethoven and Brahms in meaningful and thought provoking juxtapositions. In a continuation of choices from Prog...
Chamber
BRAWNY BRAHMS HIGHLIGHTS OPENING CHAMBERFEST PROGRAM IN SCHROEDER
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Jeffrey Kahane has done it again. After multiple Sonoma County appearances since leaving the Santa Rosa Symphony in 2006, the pianist and conductor has designed a scintillating summer concert series at Sonoma State’s Green Music Center – Chamberfest. The first of nine concerts in a short five-day ...
Opera
SIR JOHN'S VISUAL FEAST IN CINNABAR THEATER FALSTAFF PRODUCTION
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, June 13, 2015
Verdi’s operas tend to have a visceral impact on listeners, the connection forged by emphasizing starkly realistic human emotions and glorious tunes for singers and richly hued orchestra writing. But not in his last opera written in 1893: Falstaff. In only the Italian master's second comedy, Fals...
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 ...
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.