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Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s Sonoma Overt...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
Chamber
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, perfor...
Symphony
AMERICAN CLASSICS SPARKLE UNDER KAHANE’S BATON
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Jeffrey Kahane, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s former conductor, returned to the Weill Hall podium on Saturday night, and the results were expectedly wonderful. The concert of American classics was by turns playful (Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”), emotional (Barber’s violin concerto) and triumphant (...
Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series / Wednesday, June 21, 2017
Left Coast Chamber Ensemble. Tanya Tomkins and Leighton Fong, cello; Eric Zivian, piano; Anna Presler, violin

Left Coast Musicians A. Presler, E. Zivian and T. Tomkins

KODALY DUO TRUMPS POPULAR MENDELSSOHN TRIO AT SLV CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 21, 2017

It’s not really a secret, but Sonoma County’s best chamber music series is one without much notoriety or publicity. The concerts at Santa Rosa’s Spring Lake Village programs are only for residents and a few invited guests. Impresario Robert Hayden years ago honed his producer skills as founder of the well-known Music at Oakmont Series, and now he often mounts two Spring Lake Village concerts a month in an intimate setting with excellent acoustics. No other North Coast music productions can equal his seminal accomplishment.

The June 21 concert featured Berkeley’s Left Coast Chamber Ensemble and drew 125 people to the Montgomery Center on a warm evening.

Eric Zivian, perhaps Northern California’s most active fortepiano artist, played the house’s conventional concert instrument and opened in two works, first one of Schumann’s Six Studies after Caprices of Paganini, and then Chopin’s F Minor Fantasy, Op. 49. Played from score, the Schumann was full of swirls of arpeggios and passed without much notice, and the famous Fantasy received a workmanlike interpretation that stressed speed in runs at the expense of tone color, inner voices and an assertive left hand line. The half-pedal runs contributed to sonic speed but not clarity and shape.

The concert closed with arguably the most popular piano trio ever written, Mendelssohn’s D Minor, and the performance should have the evening’s gem. Loaded with memorable tunes and richly hued contrasts, the reading by cellist Tanya Tomkins, violinist Anna Presler and Mr. Zivian we beset throughout by problems of balance. Mr. Zivian’s playing from the beginning sporadically overpowered his colleagues, and Ms. Presler lacked a strong thematic projection to blend with the piano part.

The Ensemble’s best playing came in the andante where the sonic mix was fluid, but even with the Mendelssohn’s glorious heart-on-sleeve themes there wasn’t enough tonal warmth and rhythmic subtlety to make the performance rise above the routine.

Tempos in the first three movements were convincing but in the concluding finale the tempo was pushed, generating occasional smudged notes. This music can take high speed but it needs clarity in articulation. This lack of ensemble continuity missed many small delights, including the delicious left-hand accents in the piano line that the composer surprisingly inserted, and a cohesive interplay of instrumental voices.

Kodaly’s Op. 7 Duo for Violin and Cello was far and away the concert’s highlight. Cellist Leighton Fong and Ms. Presler combined to give this rarely heard 24-minute work a scintillating performance that never felt extended or the lack of additional instruments. Composed in 1914, the three-movement Duo seems in a direct line to Janacek’s string quartets, especially the “Intimate Letters” Quartet written in 1928, and Kodaly’s own powerful Sonata for Solo Cello (Op. 8) that Alicia Weilerstein played here several years ago.

In the opening heroicallegro serioso the repeats had ample rubato and each had a different but subtle character. Beautiful playing was heard throughout, ending in a fast march and pensive chords before light filigree. The instruments were in perfect equality. Kodaly is a master of string pizzicato and positioning the violin constantly in the upper register, with many long-held notes on the E string. Ms. Presler played the demanding part with aplomb, sometimes leaning into a note and alternating a narrow and thick violin sound. Both Mr. Fong and Ms. Presler were able to clearly project the many turbulent passages, especially in the cello line.

The playing in the plaintive adagio was captivating, the themes exchanged often between cello and violin, and the acoustics of the hall favoring clear articulation. Often the instrumental voices were many octaves apart, but were always distinct, especially in the many descending three-note cello phrases. The playing underscored the music’s sadness, and in strange way its theatricality.

The improvisatory introduction to the last movement (maestoso e largamente) opened quietly and became dance like in the duo’s interpretation. Here Ms. Presler was particularly effective with accurate intonation and deft phrasing. Themes dramatically soared upward and then quietly subsided. Both players were carefully sensitive to the frequent contrasts in this rapidly evolving music, and their virtuosity was compelling and everywhere enjoyable. Mr. Fong’s cello had everywhere sonorous depth, ranging from a deep bass line up into the viola sphere.

Spring Lake Village concerts often spring musical surprises, so finding the sensational Kodaly performance displacing the ever-popular Mendelssohn Trio should not have been startling. That’s surely a reason to be a musical explorer.