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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...
Symphony
SYMPHONY'S STRAVINSKY A WIND AND RHYTHMIC FEAST
by Terry McNeill
Monday, December 08, 2014
Santa Rosa Symphony conductor Bruno Ferrandis put together a curious program mix Dec. 8 in Weill Hall that on paper promised a culture clash, but actually delivered a memorable musical experience. Composers often fashion suites from orchestral works, and just as often the shorter suite can be more ...
Recital
GOING BAROQUE!
by James Harrod
Sunday, November 30, 2014
Virtuoso organist Charles Rus returned to the Bay Area and Sonoma County November 30th to perform a dazzling recital of Baroque organ music. Mr. Rus channeled the souls of the great 17th century giants of organ composition into the beautiful newly installed pipe organ in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hal...
Chamber
CLARINET VIRTUOSITY AND SONOROUS NEW MUSIC IN SCHROEDER CONCERT
by Nicki Bell
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Some new music got a hearing Nov. 25 in Schroeder Hall when the Trio Ariadne, in their second year of SSU residency, played a world premiere as well as a repertoire staple. The evening’s small and appreciative audience was treated to a Poulenc Clarinet Sonata performance sandwiched between novel in...
Symphony
A PIANIST AND ORCHESTRA IN NEED OF A PIANO
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 15, 2014
Sonoma County Philharmonic conductor Norman Gamboa mounted a crackerjack program Nov. 15 to end the Philharmonic's 2014 calendar year. It was a balanced menu of dramatic orchestral playing, beguiling choral works and an intriguing piano soloist in Santa Rosa's High School Auditorium. The evening's ...
Symphony
A CELLO CONCERTO FROM A DISTANT WORLD
by Terry McNeill
Monday, November 10, 2014
Several surprises characterized the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 10 Weill Hall concert, the first being an almost full house on a Monday night after the same program was heard the two previous days. The important surprise was how well the audience liked the thorny Dutilleux cello concerto, Tout un...
Recital
ROBUST PLAYING IN KENNER'S ANGELICO HALL DEBUT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 09, 2014
Europe-based Kevin Kenner chose a husky program for his Marin debut recital Nov. 9 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall, and elected three masterpieces from the Romantic piano literature. Schubert’s C Major “Wanderer” Fantasy has nearly disappeared from recital programs, but it was a deft openi...
Recital
CHAMBER MUSIC MASTERY IN VALLEJO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA CONCERT
by Elizabeth Warnimont
Sunday, November 09, 2014
The Vallejo Symphony Orchestra presented the first small group performance of its 2014-2015 season Nov. 9 in the casual setting of Vallejo’s First Presbyterian Church. Clarinetist Diane Maltester wowed the audience with stunning performances of pieces by well-known and rarely heard composers. “Dian...
Recital
FRANCK ORGAN WORKS SUBLIMELY PLAYED BY MANWELL IN CAS RECITAL
by Jim Harrod
Sunday, October 26, 2014
Organist Philip Manwell played a sublime recital of the major organ works of César Franck October 26 at Santa Rosa’s Resurrection Parish. The concert was a delightful treat both for those not acquainted with Franck’s organ music and for the many organists in the audience who have studied the Belgian...
Chamber
A BRUCH SURPRISE IN TRIO'S SCHROEDER CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 26, 2014
Part of the Trio Navarro’s sterling reputation rests with the rare repertoire they perform. So it was a bit of a surprise Oct. 26 in Schroeder Hall when they programmed popular works by Beethoven and Rachmaninoff. Somehow Max Bruch pieces managed to sneak into the mix. The Bruch in a way stole th...
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.