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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 / Sunday, July 30, 2017
Cynthia Freivogal and Monica Huggett, violin; Tanya Tomkins, cello; Eric Zivian, piano. Apprentices TBA

Violinist Cynthia Freivogal

PERIOD INSTRUMENTAL SOUND AT PENULTIMATE VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 30, 2017

In the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival’s penultimate concert July 30 the perennial issue of period and modern instruments was apparent. But only in the concluding Mendelssohn Trio, as the performances in the two first half works easily avoided instrumental comparisons.

Clara Schumann’s three bucolic Op. 22 Romances for Violin were beautifully played by Cynthia Freivogal and pianist Jennifer Lee, with the highlight the opening heart-on-sleeve andante. This was a romantic interpretation laced with subtle ritards and a beguiling bantamweight ending. The somber following allegretto was succeeded by the most Robert Schumannesque of the set, with surging romanticism. Ms. Freivogal played from score and clearly has a penchant for the ten-minute work composed in 1842.

Schumann’s third Quartet in A Major, Op. 41, No. 3, closed the first half in a compelling performance by four of the Festival’s apprentices – violinists Maria Romero and Rachell Wong, violist Andrew Gonzalez and cellist Ana Kim. Mr. Kim and Mr. Gonzalez pushed the first movement’s “question and answer” refrains and opening ascending phrase (known to pianists from Beethoven’s E Flat “Hunt” Piano Sonata). This was in sharp contrast to the insistent drama of the assai agitato and the songful and understated playing of the adagio. Here Ms. Romero’s colorful playing began most of the phrases, and the ensemble was always clear. The last chord of the adagio was played without string vibrato.

In the finale the music from 1842 had a sprightly and lively character, played charmingly with just one hiccup at an entrance, and the many thematic repetitions had pleasant differences. The conclusion had energy and flair. The audience in the Hanna Boys Center auditorium gave robust applause.

Arguably the most popular piano trio before the public. Mendelssohn’s D Minor occupied the entire second half and the reading was a mixed bag. Perhaps the lack of a conclusive whole was due to that popularity, as the performances in one’s mind usually have the sound of a modern concert grand and steel stringed cellos and violins.

Pianist Eric Zivian, the preeminent fortepianist in Northern California, dominated much of the performance. Mr. Zivian’s scales (in a scale-heavy work) were fast and tended to take the musical leadership away from cellist Tanya Tomkins and violinist Monica Huggett. Piano action key dip is at about 1/4" (3/8" in modern pianos) in Mr. Zivian’s reconstructed Mendelssohn-era 1841 grand, and he made the most of thematic voice leading and rubatos. His forte chords sounded well, especially when juxtaposed to the gut strings of the cello and violin. The opening movement had many beguiling moments, and at some Ms. Tomkins raised her right foot way off the floor for perhaps quiet emphasis. Her playing throughout was chaste but seldom muscular.

The famous andante in B-Flat major was charmingly played and Ms. Huggett’s solo after the opening theme in the piano part was elegant. But for much of the work she could be seen playing but not heard. Her proficient playing was frequently underpowered, and it’s hard to envision this musician playing standard virtuoso violin works (e.g., Respighi Sonata, Sibelius Concerto) in a large hall. That said, I presume such compositions are of little artistic interest to her, and her musical preferences are solidly rooted in Baroque music. The interplay of voices in the brisk scherzo was lucid, and the ensemble of the racehorse finale was exciting. Here again the piano part, even lacking a modern instrument’s sonority, was felicitous (glossy arpeggios and legato octaves) but often covered Ms. Tomkins cello part.

One should never equate the sound of these period instruments with an acquired taste. This performance with these splendid musicians had many auspicious moments, and proved again that a vintage work like the Mendelssohn D Minor can absorb many valid and compelling conceptions.

This review was written from hearing and seeing the performance video, kindly provided by Festival Public Relations Director John Hill.