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Chamber
EXTRAVAGANT FUSION OF STYLES AT CHRIS BOTTI BAND WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Jerry Dibble
Sunday, August 12, 2018
Trumpeter Chris Botti still performs in jazz venues including SF Jazz and The Blue Note, but now appears mostly in cavernous halls or on outdoor stages like the Sonoma State University’s Green Music Center. He brought his unique road show to the packed Weill Hall August 12 in a concert of effusive e...
Chamber
SCHUBERT "MIT SCHLAG" AT VOM FESTIVAL MORNING CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 29, 2018
The spirit of 19th century Vienna was present July 29 on the final day of the Valley of the Moon Music Festival. The Festival in the second half of July glittered with innovative programming and the new, old sound of original instruments played by musicians who love music with historic instruments. ...
Chamber
PASSIONATE BRAHMS-SCHOENBERG MUSIC CLOSES VOM FESTIVAL SUMMER
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 29, 2018
An extraordinary program of chamber music by Brahms and Schoenberg attracted a capacity crowd to the Valley of the Moon Music Festival’s final concert July 29th in Sonoma’s Hanna Center. It opened with a richly expressive reading by Festival Laureate violinist Rachell Wong and pianist Jeffrey LaDeur...
Chamber
PRAGUE AND VIENNA PALACE GEMS HIGHLIGHT VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, July 28, 2018
The remarkable Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival presented a concert called “Kinsky Palace” July 28 on their final Festival weekend in Sonoma’s Hanna Center. Two well-known treasures and one lesser gem were programmed. Starting the afternoon offerings were violinist Monica Huggett and Fest...
Chamber
INNOVATIVE CHAMBER WORKS IN HANNA CENTER CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, July 22, 2018
The Valley of the Moon Music Festival presented a July 22 concert featuring three giants: Haydn, Schubert and Schumann, composers who altered music of their time with creative innovations and artistic vision. In the fourth season the Festival’s theme this year is “Vienna in Transition”, and VOM Fes...
Chamber
VIENNA INSPIRATION FOR VOM FESTIVAL PROGRAM AT HANNA CENTER
by Nicki Bell
Saturday, July 21, 2018
A music-loving audience filled Sonoma’s Hanna Center Auditorium July 21 to begin a record weekend of three concerts, produced by the Valley of the Moon Music Festival. The Festival’s theme this summer is “Venice in Transition – From the Enlightenment to the Dawn of Modernism” Prior to Saturday’s m...
Chamber
VANHAL QUARTET AT VOM FESTIVAL DISCOVERY AT HANNA CENTER
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 15, 2018
A near-capacity crowd of 220 filled the Sonoma Hanna Boys Center Auditorium July 15 for the opening concert of the fourth Valley of the Moon Music Festival. This Festival presents gems of the Classical and early Romantic periods performed on instruments of the composer’s era, which presents a few ch...
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 REVIEW
Mastercard Performance Series / Saturday, February 03, 2018
Renée Fleming, soprano; Helmut Höll, piano

Soprano Renée Fleming

A COMPLETE ARTISTIC PACKAGE IN FLEMING'S WEILL HALL RECITAL

by Vaida Falconbridge and Mary Beard
Saturday, February 03, 2018

The diva Renée Fleming strode on the Weill Hall stage Feb. 2 in her first couture gown of the evening, a gray and swirling cream strapless sheath with flamboyant coordinating stole. For this concert, Ms. Fleming stayed to somewhat lighter fare, foregoing heavier dramatic and coloratura arias for a variety of songs and arias that allowed her personality to shine and showcased a wide palette of vocal colors and emotions. She delighted the sold out Hall, pulling the audience into the singer’s pain, laughter, and also drawing a tear or two in an inspirational program.

Opening with two Handel arias, Ms. Fleming displayed perfect legato and a warm simplicity, and several well-articulated trills during “Ombra mai fu” from the opera Xerses, and then took a long and unusual appoggiatura (from below) into the high note at the penultimate cadence, providing a novel musical treat in the first selection. Second was “Bel piacere e godere” (from Agrippina), a showy and agile paean to the delights of true love.

Ms. Fleming then introduced a group of seven of her favorite Brahms songs, with wide contrasts in tempi, dynamics, mood, and variety of texts. Highlights included “Mondnacht,” with lovely dreamy floating pianissimos; “Meine Liebe ist grun” (Op. 63,No. 6), an impassioned text of exultant love written by Felix Schumann; and the humor of “Vergebliches Standchen” where the singer plays the roles of both the young man courting and his coquettish rejecting lady-love. Ms. Fleming acted each role quite distinctly, one from the other, telling a delightful tale. The speed of the song made the piano accompaniment more dramatic than usual. One special gem in the group was Brahms’ “Lullaby” (Op. 49, No. 4) which many might be tempted to think of as a ‘warhorse’, or otherwise forgettable. However, one would be hard put to hear it more artfully and tenderly performed than it was in this recital.

Closing the first half were two remarkable songs by the American composer Caroline Shaw, who in 2013 won the Pulitzer Prize for Music, the youngest recipient ever. Ms. Fleming premiered these two songs in Carnegie Hall. The evocative “Aurora Borealis” painted the starkness of a dark winter night sky with many straight tones, paired with lush tones depicting the colors of the aurora borealis, and it featured a fairly lengthy and haunting melisma at the end. “Bed of Letters,” about a relationship, also unexpectedly swelled into a melismatic improvisation on the word “bloom” three fourths of the way into the song, and then ended with an extended low-pitched denouement, becoming a perfect showcase for Ms. Fleming’s rightfully famous rich, warm and resonant low notes.

Hartmut Höll was a wonderful pianist in exemplary ensemble with Ms. Fleming all evening.

The first attraction of the recital’s second half was another gorgeous gown, this time a very sparkly lilac, purple and charcoal sheath with matching duster, which very evidently pleased the audience, after which the always-elegant Ms. Fleming charmingly confessed, “I like clothes applause!” The singing featured a distinctive French grouping, with two chansons by Gabriel Fauré, an aria by (mostly) pop artist Rufus Wainwright, and a charming Oscar Straus operetta tune made famous by the early 20th-century French singer/actress Yvonne Printemps.

Set to poems by Paul-Marie Verlaine, the Fauré songs were alternately hypnotic (“Clair de lune,” Op. 46, No. 2) and playful (“Mandoline,” Op. 58). Both are well-known selections, and in fact are frequently sung by voice students. Ms. Fleming’s interpretation was masterful in her phrasing and musicality, choosing tempi, coloring and dynamics that make these songs sound uncommonly fresh and beautiful. “Les feux d’artifice t’appellent” (The Fireworks are Calling) by Wainwright, from his opera Prima Donna, cast a special spell with a soft and constantly moving piano accompaniment shimmering under the vocal line. The audience responded particularly well to the teasing, seductive “Je t’aime quand meme” (I love you, all the same) from Les Trois Valses (1935) by Straus. Ms. Fleming sang part of the song turned around and facing the audience in the choir loft, as well as turning to the balconies on the sides, including everyone in the merriment.

Music theater was next, with two songs chosen as a tribute to singer Barbara Cook, who was a neighbor of Ms. Fleming’s before her recent death. “Till There Was You” from The Music Man was simple and yet stunning, and again Ms. Fleming took a unique high note at the end for an extravagant finish. She needed audience participation on “I Whistle a Happy Tune” (The King and I) since she confessed that she could not whistle herself. The audience was asked to whistle along in certain parts, and luckily there were enough whistlers in the crowd to sound pretty good!

Concluding the program were two Dvorak songs, sung in Czech, both of which were delivered with great feeling and displaying that glorious, creamy tone for which she is so renowned. The two, “Songs My Mother Taught Me” and “Song to the Moon” from the opera “Rusalka,” are specialties of the singer. Anyone in the audience who did not previously know the Rusalka aria had surely included it in their list of favorites by the end of the concert.

Standing ovations immediately broke out, which led into two popular encores: Puccini’s “O mio babbino caro” from the opera “Gianni Schicchi,” and “I Could Have Danced All Night” from Lerner and Loewe’s Broadway hit My Fair Lady. She invited the audience to sing with her on the second chorus, and for several minutes it was the largest choir in northern California.

And to top that off, many members of the audience happily left Weill Hall able to say, “I have sung with Renée Fleming!”