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Symphony
ZUILL PLAYS ZWILICH WITH SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The Santa Rosa Symphony took a cautious step toward the return of live music in their March 28 virtual concert by sharing the stage with an actual live soloist rather than an apparition. Star cellist Zuill Bailey was still masked, and his back was toward the equally masked and plexiglassed orchestra...
Chamber
ECLECTIC CELLO PIANO VIRTUAL RECITAL FROM TOMKINS ZIVIAN DUO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The venerable 41-year Redwood Arts Council Series in Occidental has joined the virtual recital world with low budget but artistically satisfying programs, mostly using videos filmed in the performer’s residences. March 28 saw the Tanya Tomkins-Eric Zivian duo present an eclectic program from their ...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HITS THE SWEET SPOT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Small orchestras can inhabit a sweet spot between chamber ensembles and full orchestras, but how well they hit that spot depends on the composer's orchestration and the players' ability to project. That dependence was on full display in the Santa Rosa Symphony's Feb. 28 concert, which featured three...
Chamber
NOVEL OBOE-HARPSICHORD RECITAL FROM AIKEN DUO IN UKIAH
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Oboe and harpsichord recitals are a rare North Bay event, even in a pandemic environment where a formal hall setting isn’t available. So it was a delight Feb. 21 to experience on the Ukiah Symphony’s website a recital by Symphony oboist Beth Aiken and harpsichordist husband Tom. The Aiken home vis...
Symphony
A HEALTHY MIX OF TRANSCRIPTIONS AND ORIGINALS FROM THE SR SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Transcriptions and ascending arpeggios were the order of the day on Jan. 24, as the Santa Rosa Symphony performed uplifting works by Bach/Webern, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Marianna Martínes and Mozart. The concert video was made in Weill Hall on Jan. 9. The first transcription was Webern’s 1935 renderi...
Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
CHAMBER REVIEW

Cellist Madeleine Bouïssou

ECLECTIC INSTRUMENTAL COMBINATIONS IN VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT

by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, July 20, 2019

A Lovely summer afternoon in Sonoma Valley, an excellent small concert hall, enthusiastic audience, exciting musicians and creative programming with interesting story lines. All these were combined July 20 at a Valley of the Moon Festival concert titled “An Italian in Paris.” This is the fifth season of a remarkable two-week Festival, founded by pianist Eric Zivian and cellist Tanya Tomkins, at the Hanna Boys Center. Romantic chamber music on period instruments was the format, and included strings, woodwinds, vocalists and fortepiano in well-known and also rarely heard literature.

The “Italian in Paris” was Princess Cristina Belgiojoso (1808-1871), an Italian heiress who escaped husband and police and established a salon in Paris. Many artists, writers and musicians frequented her home, including Rossini, Bellini and Liszt. Hers was a life of drama, public and political service and commitment to the arts.

The concert began with a duet, Rossini’s La Serenata, sung by soprano Nikki Einfield and tenor Kyle Stegall, tenor, with Mr. Eric Zivian. The five-minute duet was a delight of musical charm and warm vocal beauty, with subtle musical interactions among the three performers creating a joyous presentation. Ms. Einfield then returned with Jeffrey LaDeur, fortepiano, to sing Bellini’s five songs from Composizioni da Camera. Farfaletto, “The Little butterfly,” was sung with tenderness and vocal nimbleness.”The Abandonment” gave us darker tones and drama in the accompaniment. The “Fervent Wish” had both simplicity and delightful ornamentation. Vocal interaction with Mr. LaDeur was always tasteful and creative. The clarity and spareness of writing gave the musicians opportunities to play with transitions of phrases and freedom of interpretation. The fourth selection, “At least, if I am not able,” had fine legato phrasing, and the last song, “For pity’s sake” was both theatrical and heartfelt, creating striking emotional impact.

Mr. LaDeur then performed two virtuoso romantic pieces, Liszt’s Sposalizio and Chopin’s Allegro de Concert, Op. 46. The artist spoke at length about the two pieces, relating that Liszt, inspired by Raphael’s painting Marriage of the Virgin, exploited a great variety of tonal resources, and Sposalizio starts with a pentatonic chant-like introduction, proceeding to a fragile and tender middle section and leading to a great climax and coda. The Allegro de Concert is a rarely heard 12-minute sketch for a never composed third piano concerto, and seems to be an experiment in that form minus an orchestra. Instead, there is rather unusual writing of orchestral and solo themes for the piano alone. This Allegro meant a great deal to Chopin, who wrote to friends “When I return to Warsaw, I will open my concert with this piece.” He never returned to Warsaw.

There are enormous technical innovations in this experiment, and LaDeur spoke of the Allegro incorporating Lisztian elements and the Sposalizio having elements of Chopin genius. This was excellent programming and the execution was dazzling. Volume was made up for by subtleties and layering of tones, and thematic passages in the treble were crystalline. There was no excess in sound but always clarity of form and a joy in the interpretation. 

The Performance generated enthusiastic applause and shouts of “bravo” from the audience of 150. The second half of the concert opened with Mr. Stegall and Eric Zivian performing songs to wonderful texts by Victor Hugo. This was greatness in words, music and performance. “If there is a charming garden,” “The tomb and the Rose,” “Child, if I were King” and “Oh! When I sleep” traversed regions of gentle love to darkness and ferocity, to humor and sweetness, and finally to vocal ecstasy. Mr. Stegall’s and Mr. Zivian”s instruments intertwined, captured complex imaginations and transported us into the magic world of these romantic songs.

Liszt championed Franck’s compositions, and violinist Rachel Barton Pine introduced the Trio in B-flat Major, Op. 1, no. 2, composed in Franck’s Parisian student days. The violinist noted in remarks to the audience that this seldom performed trio has no modern edition and therefore the musicians (Ms. Pine; cellist Madeleine Bouissou; and pianist David Belkovski) had to edit the music in rehearsal and solve numerous inconsistencies in the score. The three performers indeed made lovely music, expressive, beautifully phrased, pleasantly sweet. The score itself is often simplistic, repetitive and predictable with long stretches of solo and duet or unison melodies. The four movements had a variety of tempo and character and even considerable charm. They would be pleasant in a salon setting. It was interesting to hear this trio and contrast it with later works in which Franck achieves greatness. Ms. Pine’s violin playing shone with delicacy, warmth and passion and the trio played with loving attentiveness and care. 

Following this concert, the excited and grateful audience enjoyed an outdoor wine and refreshment event and a chance to talk about music with others and with the musicians of the Festival. This was an afternoon to recall with pleasure.