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Recital
STELLAR TRIO PLAYS ICONIC CHAMBER WORKS IN WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 19, 2015
Virtuoso instrumentalists frequently get together in a trio for a few concerts with the resulting playing being exciting but the performance sounding a little unfinished. This was decidedly not what happened with the Mutter-Bronfman-Harrell Trio April 19 in Weill, as the two works on the program ha...
Symphony
LUMINOUS SOUND IN SF SYMPHONY WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 16, 2015
Though the Santa Rosa Symphony is the Green Music Center’s resident orchestra, when the San Francisco Symphony plays Weill Hall they take total artistic ownership. In the penultimate of the four annual Bay Area run outs the SFS played a compelling program April 16 of four masterworks with flawless ...
Symphony
WARM RAMADANOFF FAREWELL IN VSO'S MARE ISLAND CONCERT
by Elizabeth Warnimont
Sunday, April 12, 2015
Vallejo bid a fond farewell April 12 to a pillar of the arts community in a concert on Vallejo's Mare Island, as David Ramadanoff directed the Vallejo Symphony in his last concert as conductor. A polite but somber mood hung over Lander hall Sunday and was as pronounced as the notes produced by the ...
Symphony
CONCERTO KÖLN DELIGHTS WITH RARELY-HEARD BAROQUE WORKS
by Joanna Bramel Young
Saturday, April 11, 2015
Weill Hall resonated April 11 with an agreeable group of Baroque works not often heard, though the composers are in fact well known. This assured, skilled plumbing of quiet corners of the repertoire is the specialty of Concerto Köln, based in Cologne, Germany, but received with pleasure throughout t...
Chamber
ANGLO BRITISH MUSIC AT OAKMONT VIOLIN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 09, 2015
In a balanced Music at Oakmont recital April 9 violinist Elena Urioste played an animated program featuring British and American composers, but with some compositional surprises. The first came with Paul Schoenfield’s Four Souvenirs, a suite of four pieces that combined several dance forms that wer...
Chamber
AUTUMNAL MAHLER SONGS BY VON STADE IN WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Mary Beard
Sunday, March 29, 2015
Sonoma State’s Music Department sponsored a farewell concert in Weill Hall March 29 for the Trio Adriadne, artists-in-residence for the last two years. Combining with the Trio (Carol McGonnell, clarinet; cellist Sæunn Thorsteinsdótter; pianist Elizabeth Joy Roe) was the Argento Chamber Ensemble, di...
Symphony
HARMONIC CONVERGENCE IN PHILHARMONIC CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, March 28, 2015
Concluding a stellar season March 28 in the Santa Rosa High School Auditorium the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a concert rich in orchestral symmetry, mixed with a piquant flute concerto. The symmetry began with the afternoon’s initial work, Carlos Escalante Macaya’s five-part “Ineluctble…El Ti...
Symphony
FASTER THAN A SPEEDING BULLET
by Steve Osborn
Friday, March 27, 2015
Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird. It's a plane. It's Gil Shaham-man, the superhuman violinist! He's faster than a speeding bullet! If you long to zoom around a speedway at 200-plus miles per hour but can't afford a race car, Gil Shaham can replicate the experience for you on his violin. In his Marc...
Chamber
"DR. DOROTHY" CHARMS CAS ORGAN RECITAL AUDIENCE
by James Harrod
Sunday, March 22, 2015
The silver clad dancing feet of organist Dorothy Young Riess brought excitement and inspiration to organ enthusiasts March 22 at Resurrection Santa Rosa’s Resurrection Church. Standing tall and straight, poised and beautiful, in sparkling silver and black attire, this 84-year old virtuoso musician, ...
Symphony
RAVISHING RUSSIAN MUSIC AND SOLOIST BURNISH SRS CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, March 21, 2015
It’s rare in a symphony concert, even one with many surprises, that a soloist takes on two disparate concertos with mostly identical results. But it was exactly the outcome of pianist Olga Kern’s appearance March 21 with the Santa Rosa Symphony in Weill Hall. Surprises? The first came with her po...
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.