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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
Valley of the Moon Music Festival / Saturday, July 22, 2017
Kyle Stegall, tenor; Elizabeth Blumenstock, violin; Tanya Tomkins, cello; Jeffrey LaDeur and Eric Zivian, piano

Pianist Jeffrey LaDeur and Cellist Tanya Tomkins July 22

ECLECTIC REPERTOIRE IN FETCHING VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 22, 2017

One of the purposes of summer music festivals is to present unfamiliar music in an attractive and often small audience setting. The Valley of the Moon Music Festival delightfully met these requirements July 22 and 23 with two concerts in the small hall at Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. Classical Sonoma attended the first concert.

Following lengthy introductory comments by pianist Eric Zivian, the artist played Bach’s first Prelude from the Well Tempered Clavier, and followed with Chopin’s first Prelude from the Op. 28 Preludes. The Bach was played with accented first notes in each bar with rock solid tempo and no forte at the climax. Both were played on a Mozart-era instrument copy, frequently featured in concerts by Mr. Zivian along with a c. 1841 grand. The Chopin playing was lovely with a soft arpeggiated last chord.

Tenor Kyle Stegall, violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock and cellist Tanya Tomkins joined Mr. Zivian in the six-minute “Ich Traue Seiner Gnaden” from Bach’s church Cantata In Allen Meinsn Taten, BWV 97. A judicious tempo allowed Mr. Stegall to artfully swell on the first note of each stanza, over a clear meandering violin part and the ground of the cello and piano lines. He sang without score during the entire concert.

With Roy Malan Ms. Blumenstock must be the most performing of Northern California violinists, playing frequently in festivals and baroque orchestras. She closed the first half with the monumental Chaconne from Bach’s D Minor Partita, BWV 1004. Bach was surely on fire when he wrote it, but Ms. Blumenstock’s small-scaled reading from score was persuasive but not to everyone’s taste. She used minimal vibrato, usually at the end of phrases, for small emphasis and to highlight transitions. Double stops were drawn out in a smooth, non-insistent approach that didn’t have a note above mezzo forte throughout. It was the slowest interpretation from a virtuoso in recent memory. The audience of 200 applauded warmly.

Schumann, the ostensible subject of the two-week Festival, wrote Six Studies for Pedal Piano, Op. 56, in 1845 for the now extinct piano with pedals and strings under the conventional instrument. Liszt had one in Weimar, and versions of the six include various groupings of instruments. Two-piano performances are occasionally heard, and here the music was divided in two groups of three – violin, cello piano; one piano, four hands. The “Nicht zu Schnell” had an improvisatory character, and the second supported a long, laconic theme with each instrument trading voices up to two chaste piano chords. The third (andantino) had the most Schumann character in a “call and response” mode. Echt German romanticism.

Jeffrey LaDeur took the treble piano part (though Mr. Zivian kept the damper pedal) and both gave an authoritative account of the final three Etudes. The first had Mr. LaDeur carrying the themes through a surprising modulation, and the jazzy Nicht zu Schnell was a low-key dance drama. The stately slow adagio clearly exposed the fugues that mostly ended with trills. It was low voltage playing of elegance.

In a program with lots of individual pieces the viola wasn’t forgotten as Andrew Gonzales played Schumann’s Rasch from the Märchenbilder, Op. 113, with fellow Festival apprentice Jennifer Lee at the piano. Mr. Gonzalez had a big sound, ranging from a will-of-the-wisp skittish bow to delicate slides on notes for emphasis.

The viola work past without much interest, where the following two Chopin Songs from Op. 74 were some of the highlights of the afternoon. Mr. Stegall sang one of the two most famous from the set of 17 (“Moja Pieszczotka” – My Joys or My Delights) in richly hued and distinct Polish, with an extended delicious ritard before the second stanza. He made a strong case for this tenor version rather than the more popular light soprano. The following “Melodya” was sung with unique rhythmic verve and a delicate postlude from Mr. Zivian.

The duo followed with two Schumann songs, Widmung (from the Myrthen set of Op. 25) and “Im Rhein, im Heiligen Strome.” Both were sung beautifully, especially the second from arguably Schumann’s greatest work, the Op. 48 Dichterliebe. Mr. Stegall is a master of dark contrasts, and Mr. Zivian’s long postludes were alluring and everywhere lovely.

Two more works finished the long program: Liszt’s popular transcription of Schumann’s Widmung song, and the largo from Chopin’s Cello Sonata in G. Mr. LaDeur played a subtle and perfectly phrased Widmung, never forcing the fortepiano’s sound but managing to give the impression of the greater sonority of a modern concert grand. It was fastidious pianism.

Ms. Tomkins played the short cello movement with the appropriate heart-on-sleeve ardor, using a wide vibrato. Most of the five-minute piece is in the lower register, and Ms. Tomkins made the most of her instrument’s deep sound and the beguiling theme. It was the melody that presumably most of the audience had in their ears on the way home from a unique and satisfying festival experience.