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Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Valley of the Moon Music Festival / Sunday, July 29, 2018
Monica Huggett, Sara Bleile and Susannah Foster, violin; Tanya Tomkins, cello; Kate Van Orden, bassoon; Anthony Manzo, double bass; Sadie Glass, horn; Eric Hoeprich, clarinet; Christian De Luca, piano

Brahms' G Minor Piano Quartet Performance July 29 at the Hanna Center

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 of Brahms’ Scherzo in C Minor from the 1853 F.A.E. Sonata. Ms. Wong’s playing was especially sensitive, and paired with Mr. LaDeur’s clarion pianism, it was a real treat.

For the second selection, the Festival co-directors chose Arnold Schoenberg’s emotional tone poem Verklärte Nacht, (Transfigured Night), Op. 4, composed in three weeks in Vienna in 1899. Schoenberg greatly admired Brahms and chose a string sextet—the string quartet expanded by two that Brahms experimented with—for his stunning late-Romantic work. There is a popular version for string orchestra.

The composer’s inspiration was a narrative poem by the German writer Richard Dehmel (1863-1920). The poem presents a lovers’ dilemma: a young woman confesses during a night walk with her beloved that she’s pregnant by another man. Her trepidation is great as she awaits a response, while he fights to bring his emotions under control. When he answers, it is to say that he will accept the child as his own. The night is transfigured. Above them, the moon shimmers a blessing. All of this is subtly expressed in the music.

The ensemble was coached and led by violinist Owen Dalby, and most of the musicians had not previously played the work. But Mr. Dalby guided them masterfully, and all were superb.

Through the piece’s tremulous ascents and descents, crescendos and diminuendos, its deep shadows and ethereal lights, it was enthralling experience. The musicians breathed as one. Violists Lauren Nelson and Andrew Gonzalez played with a golden tone; Tanya Tomkins and Madeleine Bouissou’s cello sound was warmly burnished, and Mr. Dalby’s and Rachell Wong’s violins were luminous and emotional. Toward the end, Mr. Dalby played a solo of great sweetness over the rhythmic underpinning of the other musicians. When the music ended, the audience remained silent, not wanting to break the spell, until Mr. Dalby and the others lowered their bows. The listeners then rose to express their gratitude.

After an intermission, the audience returned for the culminating work, Brahms’ Piano Quartet No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 25, written in 1861. This exploratory masterpiece still challenges the listener after 150 years. Written in traditional structure (allegro –intermezzo – andante con moto – rondo alla zingarese: presto), it altered many traditions of chamber music. Open-ended motifs are introduced, explored briefly and abandoned to make way for other motifs that seem to owe no allegiance to any but themselves. On first hearing it isn’t an easy work to initially grasp. One could consider it a whirlwind tour of Brahms’ music vocabulary.
The most dominant flavor is Hungarian, particularly in the second and fourth movements. The fourth (rondo alla zingarese) is a wild gypsy dance alive with mixed rhythms—sensual, jumpy and romantic. The Mendelssohn-era piano and the violin, viola and cello with gut strings and horsehair bows, achieved a perfect sonorous balance, and the musicians—Eric Zivian, Mr. Dalby, Mr. Gonzalez and Ms. Tomkins—were a consummate ensemble. After the last notes died, the audience immediately jumped to its feet. It was a triumphal conclusion to a splendid Festival.

In the late afternoon sun on the Hall’s lovely patio the performers, Festival staff, and members of the audience mixed and enjoyed the final Festival gratis wine and appetizers.
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