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Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
Chamber
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the ...
Symphony
CONDUCTOR PLAYOFFS BEGIN IN SANTA ROSA
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 08, 2017
The Santa Rosa Symphony is calling 2017-18 “a choice season” because the next few months offer the audience and the symphony’s board of directors a chance to choose a new conductor from a pool of five candidates. Each candidate will lead a three-concert weekend set this fall and winter, with a final...
Recital
PIANISTIC COMMAND IN SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, October 08, 2017
Nikolay Khozyainov’s Oct. 8 debut at the Green Music Center’s Schroeder Hall was one of those rare moments in a young artist’s career when a performance approaches perfection. From the opening notes of Beethoven’s A-Flat Major Sonata (Op. 110) through a delightful recital ending transcription, the ...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Valley of the Moon Music Festival / Sunday, July 30, 2017
Jennifer Frautschi, violin; Liana Bérubé, viola; Jeffrey LaDeur and Eric Zivian, piano; Rachel Wong, violin; Liana Bérubé, viola; Tanya Tomkins, cello

Brahms' Quintet July 30 at the VOM Festival (J. Hill Photo)

THRILLING PROGRAM CLOSES VOM CHAMBER FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER

by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, July 30, 2017

The finale of the two-week Valley of the Moon Music Festival closed July 30 with “The Age of Bravura” concert at the Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. The musical selections held to this year’s Festival theme “Schumann’s World - His Music and the Music He Loved.“

This summer Festival features chamber musicians playing period instruments of the Classical and Romantic era, and the piano used for this concert was a restored 1841 instrument originally built in Vienna by Franz Rausch. In attempting to approximate how Schumann might have heard his music the string players used gut in lieu of metal strings and bows appropriate for the 19th century music.

Pieces on the program were by Schumann, Paganini, Joachim, Liszt and Brahms, and included solo piano selections thoughtfully performed by Festival co-director Eric Zivian and Jeffrey LaDeur. The string players featured violinist Jennifer Frautschi and included violinist Rachel Wong (a 2017 Festival Apprentice), violist Liana Bérubé, and Festival co-director and cellist Tanya Tomkins. Mr. Zivian joined the group for Brahms’ Op. 34 F Minor Quintet.

Mr. Zivian opened the program with Schumann’s Valse Allemande and Paganini sections from Carnaval, Op 9. The temperamental forte-piano, which requires multiple tunings during the course of a day, yielded to Zivian’s will and served as a wonderful concert beginning. The pianist’s idiosyncratic approach to playing coaxed a warm sonority from the fortepiano in these lighter introductory pieces. It is difficult to describe how the forte-piano differs from modern instruments but the word “muted” comes to mind. Nevertheless, when necessary Mr. Zivian and later Mr. LaDeur were both able to bring out hidden capabilities of the instrument when a fierce approach was required.

Next was Ms. Frautschi’s rendering of Paganini’s lyrical Caprice, Opus 2, No 13, in B-flat Major, with Mr. Zivian at the piano. The use of gut strings provided a softer and in some ways a more pleasurable sound compared to their modern metal cousins. Ms. Frautschi’s playing is filled with emotion and supported by masterful technique as demonstrated by her facility on the fingerboard and artful bowing. Her playing was graceful throughout and brought new insight to this lesser played Caprice.

Mr. Zivian returned to perform Schumann’s Op. 10, No. 6, one of the Six Studies after Paganini Caprices. While obviously written with a tip of the hat to Paganini, the E Major piece was nevertheless very much Schumann. Here the performer was able to bring out more of the forte-piano’s character as well as demonstrate his interpretive skills and technical excellence. The audience seemed especially appreciative.

The Zivian and Frautschi duo joined again for a delightful romp through Joseph Joachim’s Romance in C Major, Op. 20. Their give and take ensemble playing was an elegant success. Ms. Frautschi then played a Paganini warhorse, the 24th Caprice from his Op. 1. She chose a judicious tempo (many virtuosos tend to play this memorable Caprice too fast). Taking the tempo down a notch allowed the artist to reveal to the audience the piece’s more subtle aspects which made her interpretation a crowd pleaser.

At a point when there might have been an intermission a rich musical offering of Liszt’s music by Mr. LaDeur wowed the audience. He started out gently with three pieces from Années de Pélerinage Première Anée (Suisse), S. 160: Au lac de Wallenstadt, Pastorale, and Au Bord d’une source (At The Spring). Here the San Francisco-based pianist revealed his lyrical artistry. His easy natural playing style was a perfect match for these sonorous compositions that were written between 1835 and 1852. One only needed to close one’s eyes to be transported into Liszt’s contemplative nature scenes in Switzerland.

Then followed Liszt’s transcription of Paganini’s 24th Caprice, the last of the Hungarian master’s set of six from 1851. It was a great contrast to Ms. Frautschi’s offering. Liszt of course commands piano pyrotechnics and Mr. LaDeur’s technical prowess was up to the challenge. His playing was secure and powerful and in listening one might have forgotten he was playing a light action, limited sonority instrument from an earlier era. That said, Mr. LaDeur did not shy from bringing a sensitive interpretation of the piece’s quieter moments.

In pre-performance remarks Mr. LaDeur alerted the audience to the fact that his final work, Schumann’s Toccata in C Major, Op. 7, was the type of piece that put any pianist brave enough to attempt it through the wringer. It can be said that as harrowing as it must be to perform the piece, this pianist’s command of his instrument was such that the artistic result was never in doubt. Mr. LaDeur’s playing was a joy to experience, and his domination of double notes and octave passagework was a fitting goodbye for Schumann as the Festival’s artistic honoree.

The concluding Brahms’s Quintet from 1865 provided a wonderful composition to end the program and the VOM Festival. Here the ensemble playing of period instruments brought the listener as close as possible to the sounds of an earlier time. There was but one brief glitch, out of the control of the musicians, when Mr. Zivian was forced to raise his arm stopping the piece dead in its tracks. It appeared that a rod running to one of the pedals of the temperamental pianoforte became disengaged. However, Mr. Zivian quickly bent down under the keyboard and remedied the pesky problem.

The group proceeded as if nothing happened, keeping their composure, and clearly were in synch with each other. Cohesive playing during the difficult and broadly lyrical slow movement was captivating, and one movement led into another seamlessly and it was sonically and visually apparent that the musicians were having a great time performing the muscular piece.

The third season of the growing Valley of the Moon Musical Festival came to a splendid close.