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Recital
THE BALLADE OF JUHO POHJONEN
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 14, 2014
Planning a piano program around a single theme or name can be tricky because cutesy connections can easily displace artistic merit. Fortunately, Juho Pohjonen's Sept. 14 recital in the inaugural "Sundays at Schroeder" concert was a textbook example of a successful theme--ballades--supported by wonde...
Chamber
POTENT STUDENT WORKS IN ARIADNE TRIO CONCERT
by Nicki Bell
Sunday, August 24, 2014
On a lovely August 24 afternoon the Trio Ariadne played the seventh of ten concerts inaugurating the opening of SSU’s Schroeder Hall in the Green Music Center. It was part of a celebratory splash to introduce the music community to this little jewel of a hall, the 250-seat capacity and acoustics pe...
Chamber
ACOUSTIC CLARITY AT LAST
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, August 24, 2014
After years of chamber music frustration in Sonoma State University's Ives and Weill halls, the Trio Navarro basked in acoustical clarity Aug. 24 at their debut concert in the university's new Schroeder Hall. The acoustics in Weill before small audiences, and with lush romantic chamber music, made ...
Chamber
FACULTY AND COMMUNITY MUSICIANS JOIN IN SCHROEDER CELEBRATION
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, August 24, 2014
Though many of the inaugural Schroeder Hall concerts had larger audiences than the Aug. 24 faculty and community musician event, few of them had such lovely music on display. Some of the best were first, with ravishing music from SSU guitarist Eric Cabalo and Santa Rosa Symphony violinist Eugenie W...
Chamber
VOCAL PYROTECHNICS LIGHT UP SCHROEDER HALL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, August 24, 2014
What could end a wildly successful 10-concert inaugural weekend in SSU’s new Schroeder Hall? A resounding concert of manifold brass, organ and voice that turned out by a wide margin to be the overall audience favorite. The long Sunday evening event put on display every piece of Schroeder’s vaunted...
Recital
KAHANE RECITAL HELPS INAUGURATE SCHROEDER HALL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, August 23, 2014
Jeffrey Kahane returns frequently to Sonoma County in conducting and concerto performance, but rarely in recital. Two past solo events come to mind, a "fantasy" program where the Copland outshone the Schumann and Chopin, and an uneven concert capped by Chopin's F Minor Ballade. A jammed Schroeder ...
Recital
HERE COMES THE ORGAN!
by James Harrod
Saturday, August 23, 2014
The rich sounds of Dutch Renaissance organ flutes, reeds, and mixtures sounded in Sonoma County August 23 when James David Christie inaugurated the new Schroeder Hall pipe organ installation at Sonoma State University. Under the performer’s experienced and sensitive touch, the Brombaugh Opus 9 mech...
Choral and Vocal
A FITTING OPENING FOR SCHROEDER HALL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, August 23, 2014
A choral concert by the Sonoma Bach Choir was a fitting opening for the new Schroeder Hall at Sonoma State University on Aug. 23. After all, the idea for the Green Music Center came many years ago from Don Green, who at the time was singing in the Bach Choir, conducted then and now by Bob Worth. Th...
Chamber
UBER VIOLISTS AT MUSIC IN THE VINEYARDS
by Steve Osborn
Friday, August 08, 2014
Full disclosure. I'm an amateur--very amateur--violist, so Friday's Music in the Vineyards concert in Napa Valley was of particular interest to me. The program featured two sextets with prominent viola parts; a trio for viola, flute and piano; and the pièce de résistance: a quartet for four violas. ...
Chamber
PIANO SONOMA JAMS IN FINAL WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, August 03, 2014
PianoSonoma concluded its artist-in-residence performances August 3 in a sparkling Weill Hall concert where mostly new music overshadowed conventional fare. Mendelssohn’s popular D Minor Trio began the program in a workmanlike performance that never quite caught fire. Tempos throughout were judici...
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.