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Opera
SPARKLING CIMAROSA OPERA HIGHLIGHTS MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kathryn Stewart
Friday, July 13, 2018
The Classical music era was a time of extraordinary innovation. Dominated by composers from the German-speaking countries, the period witnessed the handiwork of masterpieces by two classical giants, Haydn and Mozart. Both composers put forth a tremendous catalog of masterful works and perhaps to our...
Symphony
!PURA VIDA! A SONIC TRIUMPH FOR SO CO PHIL IN THRILLING COSTA RICA TOUR CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Long anticipated events, such as a great sporting game, gourmet feast, holiday trip or a concert, occasionally fall way short of expectations. The results don’t measure to expectations. With the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Costa Rica concert June 19, the performance exceeded any heated or tenuou...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now they seem to be on almost ever...
CHAMBER REVIEW
PianoSonoma - Vino and Vibrato Series / Tuesday, July 26, 2016
Julia Glenn, violin; Mika Sasaki, Michael Shinn, Jessica Chow Shinn, Peter Dugan, piano; Emi Ferguson, flute; Kara Sainz, mezzo-soprano

Violinist Julia Glenn

PIANOSONOMA SERIES OPENS WITH ECHT GERMAN ROMANTICISM

by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, July 26, 2016

PianoSonoma’s second season in SSU’s Schroeder Hall began July 26 with a mixed program under the series appellation “Vino & Vibrato.” The set of student workshops and concerts, headed by Juilliard School pianists Jessica and Michael Shinn, puts artists in residence in close contact with Sonoma County adult musicians for two weeks each summer.

Titled a “Love Triangle” (Clara and Robert Schumann with Brahms), Clara Schumann’s Three Romances for Violin and Piano, Op. 22, had a shaky opening. Violinist Julia Glenn’s intonation wavered and the thematic projection in the soaring melancholy of the Andante was tentative. Clear note taking in the Allegretto was seldom clear, but her best playing came in the final Agitato’s light lyricism, and Ms. Glenn leaned gracefully into some notes with palpable effect.

An 11-minute interlude work from Brahms, his piano transcription for four hands from Robert Schumann’s E-Flat Major Quartet, Op. 47, (Andante only) was played by the Shinns. Ms. Shin was segundo and the arching phrases, lovely counterpoint and poignant sadness of the super-romantic music was vivid and chaste. Mr. Shinn noted to the audience that the work was Brahms’ best love song for Clara, but that gift could also be the Andante from the Op. 60 C Minor Piano Quartet.

Pianist Mika Sasaki played well with forceful rolling chords in the final Romance, and continued admirable pianism with two sets of variations on a Robert Schumann theme from his Op. 99 Bunte Blätter. First came Clara’s Op. 20, and Ms. Sasaki’s tempos were never rushed and she played with a subtle touch, though over pedaling at times made the left-hand line muddy. The slower variations and the concluding arpeggios were lovely.

Brahms’ Op 9 Variations on the same theme is far removed from the composer’s virtuosic Handel Variations, and Ms. Sasaki played 12 of the written 16. Few other composers (Bizet, Rubinstein) at this time were writing formal variations for piano, and the pianist made a good case for the 1854 work with ruminating themes, a boisterous repeated-note variation and a catchy dance variation. The music had a far off feel with the pianist playing strong bass chords before in the last variation slowing down the tempo to elegant effect.

Following intermission mezzo-soprano Kara Sainz joined pianist Peter Dugan in three sets of songs: three from Brahms and two each by Clara and Robert. Clara’s Liebst du um Schonheit and Liebeszauber were performed well but the better known Brahms and Robert Schumann works overshadowed them. The big “Wie Melodien” (Op. 105, No. 1) was verbally introduced by Mr. Duggan, and his clean distinctive piano sound melded well with Ms. Sainz’s supple voice and excellent German diction.

Ms. Sainz’ slow steady voice sounded comely in the well-known “Die Mainacht” (Op. 43, No. 2), but lacked the last bit of warmth in the biggest climaxes of “Meine Leibe ist grun” (My love is Green), Op. 65, No. 5.

The concert’s last offering, the Robert Schumann songs, was a fitting end. Ms. Sainz flattened (presumably by artistic design) some notes in phrases in “Er, der Herrlichste von allen,” from the cycle Frauenliebe und Leben, a seminal work for mezzo. Here Mr. Dugan’s playing at places covered the singer, but was in perfect balance for the operatic “Widmung” from the cycle Myrthen, Op. 25. Some of the raw vocal power and color needed in this song was absent, but perhaps Liszt’s two piano transcriptions of “Widmung” are too much in mind, and defer the beauty of this celebrated song from a salutary mezzo.

Most of the 80 people in the hall rose in a short ovation.