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Symphony
SYMPHONIC SPLENDOR AND HARP VIRTUOSITY AT SRS CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 07, 2017
A rainy winter Weill Hall audience of 800 heard the Santa Rosa Symphony Jan. 7 in an eclectic program of four composers including a provocative harp concerto. The music was preceded by manifold stage announcements and somber recognition of SRS musicians that had recently died. A rollicking performa...
Choral and Vocal
A MAJESTIC ABS MESSIAH ORATORIO RESOUNDS IN WEILL DEC. 18
by Joanna Bramel Young
Sunday, December 18, 2016
San Francisco’s American Bach Soloists (ABS) presented Handel’s incomparable oratorio Messiah, HWV 56, to a sold out Weill Hall Dec. 18. It was a celebratory afternoon. In the fashion ABS audiences have learned to expect, conductor Jeffrey Thomas brought out the best of orchestra, chorus and solo...
Symphony
HEAR THE TOLLING OF THE BELLS--IRON BELLS!
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 04, 2016
Thanks to the generosity of Don Green (as in Green Music Center), the Santa Rosa Symphony has for many years performed an annual choral program, usually during the holiday season. In keeping with this tradition, the orchestra and the SSU Symphonic Chorus featured Rachmaninoff’s choral symphony “The ...
Choral and Vocal
EARLY CHRISTMAS SEASON TRIUMPH FOR 24 ANGELS IN WEILL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, November 27, 2016
Weill Hall Nov. 27 was packed with an audience of young and old excitedly waiting for an early holiday concert by the Vienna Boys Choir, and this esteemed Choir is a five-hundred year institution which is based in a school of 100 choristers. Four touring groups divide their time between studying and...
Symphony
SENSUAL OPERATIC BON BONS AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Alan Bloom
Saturday, November 19, 2016
Music Director Norman Gamboa never fails to come up with interesting programs for his Sonoma County Philharmonic concerts. It was all opera music for the second concert set of the 2016-2017 season Nov. 19 in the Santa Rosa High School Auditorium. From the romantic opening swells of the Berlioz’ Ov...
Symphony
ORION WEISS TAKES BARTÓK AT THE SPEED OF LIGHT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 06, 2016
Gifted pianists are everywhere these days, but few have the prodigious speed, stamina, and musicality of Orion Weiss. He exhibited all these qualities in a memorable rendition of Béla Bartók’s second piano concerto with the Santa Rosa Symphony Nov. 6 in Weill. Weiss is a no-nonsense pianist. He sea...
Symphony
TADDEI TRIUMPH IN VSO SEASON OPENING CONCERT
by Elizabeth Warnimont
Sunday, October 30, 2016
Vallejo Symphony Orchestra's guest soloist Sara Davis Buechner wowed her audience Oct. 30 in a stellar performance of Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto, the second of three pieces comprising the symphony’s season-opening performance in Hogan Auditorium and the debut of its new music director, Marc Ta...
Chamber
TASTY TRIO NAVARRO CONCERT WITH SRS WIND VIRTUOSI
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 23, 2016
SSU’s resident Trio Navarro has a long history of presenting diverse programs in the piano trio format, with occasional out-of-area artists joining the mix. This familiar configuration was altered in an Oct. 23 Schroeder Hall concert with the deletion of the violin part and the addition of two ster...
Recital
SOUND AND FURY IN MATSUEV WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 22, 2016
A touring virtuoso’s reputation often precedes him or her, and usually that’s a good thing. The reputation of a Renée Fleming or a Yo Yo Ma can guarantee a sold out hall, and possibly a great concert. But not always, and so there was some concern at Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s Oct. 23 Weill re...
Chamber
TRIO VALTORNA'S JAUNTY EXPLORATIONS AT OAKMONT CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 20, 2016
New York’s Trio Valtorna came to Music at Oakmont’s Berger Auditorium stage Oct. 20 with three disparate works, and in two of them instrumental sonic continuity was not a main goal. But it was in the second half’s seminal piece, Brahms’ E-Flat Major Trio (Op. 40) for horn, violin and piano, that br...
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.