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Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s Sonoma Overt...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
Chamber
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, perfor...
Symphony
AMERICAN CLASSICS SPARKLE UNDER KAHANE’S BATON
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Jeffrey Kahane, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s former conductor, returned to the Weill Hall podium on Saturday night, and the results were expectedly wonderful. The concert of American classics was by turns playful (Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”), emotional (Barber’s violin concerto) and triumphant (...
Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Valley of the Moon Music Festival / Saturday, July 28, 2018
Monica Huggett and Rachell Wong, violin; Marc Schachman, oboe; Sadie Glass, horn; Andrew Gonzalez, viola; Christian de Luca, fortepiano; Kate Van Orden, bassoon; Eric Hoeprich, clarinet; Tanya Tomkins, cello; Eric Zivian, piano. Apprentices TBA

Violinist Monica Huggett

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 Festival apprentice fortepianist Christian De Luca performing Beethoven’s Violin Sonata Op. 24 (“Spring”). This Sonata, as Ms. Huggett told the audience in humorous and lively introductory remarks, has exemplary violin writing, and she gave a nuanced and spirited performance with liquid scales and lyrical tone in profusion. Violin and fortepiano traded themes, intertwined, contrasting and reinforcing each other. The two parts were always clear and balanced in the opening allegro. The second movement was played with heartfelt tenderness and the forward-moving tempo supported masterful melody shaping. Then the intensely rhythmical and cleverly syncopated scherzo was delightfully played. The final rondo was played with careful matching of articulation and beautiful phrase shaping. The main theme appeared in different guises and myriad delightful forms. The audience gave this performance a standing ovation and bravos.

Hummel’s Clarinet Quartet in E-Flat Major (S. 78) followed. Erich Hoeprich, on an historic replica clarinet he crafted, joined 2018 Laureates Rachel Wong, violin, violist Andrew Gonzalez and Festival co-founder Tanya Tomkins on the cello. Hummel was a Mozart and Haydn protégé and in this Quartet of about 28 minutes he integrates the clarinet into the chamber group rather than contrasting the wind sound against the strings, a remarkable achievement of the composer and of these performers.

The first movement (allegro moderato has a charming opening, the themes being traded with classical clarity reminiscent of Mozart. The music is vibrant and bubbly, and has some mystery and changeable moods of passion and drama. All the while the instrumental voices interacted and created a unified sound rather than flights of individualism. The second movement was in tarantella style, played with precision and outstanding wild passages, especially from the cello. The andante third movement featured playing of lovely legato phrases. The mood was pleasant and the interpretation was beautifully understated. The rondo was full of musical gestures of the Classical Period. Particularly effective were passages pairing the violin and viola and the continual blending of clarinet and strings. This Hummel Quartet from 1807 certainly could inspire listeners to become acquainted with more of his compositions. Once again there was a standing ovation.

After the intermission Beethoven’s unique piano/woodwind quintet, Opus 16, was performed by Marc Schachman, oboe; Mr. Hoeprich, hornist Sadie Glass; Kate van Orden, bassoon; and Festival pianist Eric Zivian. This piece was inspired by Mozart’s quintet for the same ensemble and in fact, Mozart seemed to be an unseen inspiring presence throughout the afternoon. Beethoven’s opening (grave) was rhythmical and crisp, the piano exhibiting its power without competing with or overpowering the wind ensemble. This led into an allegro of relaxed spontaneity and large gestures, occasionally evoking dreamy worlds. Modern instruments can make this writing sound like a piano concerto, but here it was a fresh collaborative sound. An extramusical moment of drama was the breaking of a fortepiano string, but Mr. Zvian assured the audience that the music could be carried on with the note’s remaining string.

The andante movement is certainly one of the most beautiful pieces in chamber music repertoire. The fortepiano opening theme was very expressive and led to the wind instruments reiteration with their full and forceful tone. Thereafter each instrument was featured in a solo: Mr. Schachman’s rich oboe tone, Ms. van Orden’s mellow bassoon, the distinctive colors of horn and clarinet all singing out, then all rising on a chromatic tide together to bring back the fortepiano with new elegant ornamentation. The third movement is a rondo romp with typical hunting horn harmonies, tossing of ideas back and forth, with phrases calling for play, dance, and to rejoice. The tempo was well chosen and the music was performed straightforward, direct and full of optimism.

A reception with wine and happy company concluded the afternoon of a musical visit to the world of palaces in Vienna and Prague of the 18th century. Bravos to Valley of the Moon Festival musicians! “Aufwiedersehen” next summer.