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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...
Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the season’s final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church, as the performers...
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
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 Premičre 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.