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Recital
DYNAMIC PIANISM IN YAKUSHEV MARIN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 23, 2022
Russian pianist Ilya Yakushev arrived Jan. 23 at his Mill Valley Chamber Music Society recital with the repute of playing loud and fast and delivering charming introductory musical remarks to his audience. He was true to form in Mill Valley’s Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church, preceding Haydn’s sple
Symphony
THE SHOW MUST GO ON
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 9, 2022
The Jan. 9 Santa Rosa Symphony concert was supposed to feature the world premiere of Gabriella Smith’s first symphony, but it ended up featuring another type of premiere: a concert that was conceived, rehearsed and performed in less than eight hours. Symphony staff learned on Sunday morning that so
Choral and Vocal
AN OLD FRIEND RETURNS TO WEILL IN STERLING ABS MESSIAH PERFORMANCE
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Sunday, December 19, 2021
A tremendous accomplishment by the American Bach Soloists Dec. 19 was near perfect performance of Handel's Messiah in Weill Hall. Long an annual tradition at San Francisco's Grace Cathedral, the ABS took to the road and delivered a Christmas gift of epic proportions to an obviously thrilled and enth
Symphony
SHOSTAKOVICH FIFTH THUNDERS AT WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 5, 2021
In a new season marketed as “Classical Reunion,” the Santa Rosa Symphony made a palpable connection with its audience at the early December set of three standing ovation concerts in Weill Hall. The December 5 concert, with 1,000 attending, is reviewed here. Vaughan Williams’ popular Fantasia on a T
Chamber
THE LINCOLN RETURNS WITH CLARKE'S PUNGENT TRIO
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, November 18, 2021
There were many familiar faces Nov. 18 during Music at Oakmont’s initial concert of the season, but perhaps the most necessary were the three musicians of the Lincoln Piano Trio, the Chicago-based group that has performed often in Oakmont since 2006. A smaller than unusual audience in Berger Audito
Symphony
NOSTALGIC BARBER KNOXVILLE AT SO CO PHIL JACKSON THEATER CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 14, 2021
In their first Jackson Theater appearance of the new season the Sonoma County Philharmonic presented Nov. 14 a program devoid of novelty, but showcasing the “People’s Orchestra” in splendid performance condition after a long COVID-related layoff. Conductor Norman Gamboa drew a committed and boister
Chamber
THRILLING PIANO QUINTETS IN MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 14, 2021
The Mill Valley Chamber Music Society sprang back to life on November 14 when a stellar ensemble from the Manhattan Chamber Players, a New York-based collective, arrived to perform two piano quintets: Vaughn-Williams’ in C Minor (1903), little known and rarely performed; and Schubert’s in A Major D.
Chamber
MUSCULAR BRAHMS FROM IVES COLLECTIVE IN GLASER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 14, 2021
Leaving SRJC’s Newman Auditorium for the first time in decades, the College’s Chamber Concert Series presented a season-opening concert Nov. 14 in Santa Rosa’s Glaser Center with the four-musician Bay-Area based Ives Collective. The season, the first given since 2020, is dedicated to Series Founder
Symphony
MONUMENTAL BRAHMS SYMPHONY HIGHLIGHTS MARIN SYMPHONY RETURN
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 7, 2021
In the waning COVID pandemic the Marin Symphony is one of the last Bay Area orchestras to return to the stage, and they did with considerable fanfare Nov. 7 before 1,200 in Civic Center Auditorium, with resident conductor Alasdair Neale leading a demanding concert of Brahms, Schumann and New York-ba
Symphony
APOLLO'S FIRE LIGHTS UP VIVALDI'S FOUR SEASONS IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 30, 2021
Long ago the Canadian violin virtuoso Gil Shaham played a program in Weill Hall of solo Bach, with a visual backdrop of slowly developing visuals, such as a pokey flower opening over four minutes. The Bach was sensational, and some in the audience liked the photos but many found them disconcerting,
CHAMBER REVIEW
Valley of the Moon Music Festival / Sunday, July 17, 2016
Kyle Stegall, tenor
Elizabeth Blumenstock, violin
Tanya Tomkins, cello
Eric Zivian, fortepiano

Eric Vivian and Tanya Tomkins Play Beethoven July 17 (John Hefti Photo)

PERIOD INSTRUMENT SOUND AT VOM FESTIVAL'S OPENING CONCERT AT HANNA CENTER

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 17, 2016

Every summer music festival has a unique character, and the Valley of the Moon Music Festival in Sonoma has the singular character of stressing period instruments that sound well for mostly period repertoire.

In the Festival’s opening concert July 17 this was best in evidence for two Beethoven works, the “Kakadu” Piano Trio and the seven cello variations based on a theme from Mozart’s opera “The Magic Flute.” Eric Zivian, Northern California’s premier fortepianist, brought two of his instruments (period copies) to the Hanna Boys Center auditorium and convinced even skeptical listeners of the fortepiano’s center stage role.

He began with a movement of Clementi’s B Flat Sonata, Op. 24, No. 2, with fluid scale playing and balance in the registers. Key dip in a c. 1795 instrument is less than a modern piano, allowing for rapid rippling scales, clipped phrasing and assured ornamentation. The cadenza was short.

Mr. Zivian, heard in every work on the program, then joined tenor Kyle Stegall in a brief aria from Mozart’s Opera “Magic Flute.” Titled Die Bildnis ist Bezaubernd, the music brought out Mr. Stegall’s rich sonority, excellent German diction and his skill at swelling delicately on soft notes. It was charm with strength.

Gut strings are a required item for most Festival music at Hanna, and the Mozart Major Sonata for Violin, K. 526, was played with these strings by Elizabeth Blumenstock, again with Mr. Zivian at the piano. In the Molto Allegro the violinist’s tone was thin and often covered by the piano, with ends of phrases fading away and little rhythmic flexibility. It went this way through the Sonata, though in the Andante the duo played lovely balanced pianissimo phrases.

This reviewer has heard the violinist many times before, mostly with the renowned American Bach Soloists, and in music with less required vibrato and projection the result has been impressive. This afternoon, even during the Presto finale, the violin articulation didn’t save a timid sound. This reaction may simply be too deep an association with classical recordings of the A Major with more powerful steel strings, from Grumiaux/Haskill and Schumsky/Balsam.

After intermission Festival founder and cellist Tanya Tomkins joined Mr. Zivian for the buoyant Variations on Bei Männern, welche Liebe Fühlen.” Here Ms. Tomkins' instrument also had gut strings but had a strong bottom end sound and that was agile but different from a differently strung cello. The phrasing throughout was deft and Mr. Zivian, in a long introduction to the fourth Variation, inserted brief tasty ritards, meshing well with Ms. Tomkins’ slow vibrato at the end of phrases. Mozart’s catchy tune with this duo became a cheerful delight.

Mr. Stegall returned to sing three Mozart Lieder. The short (45 seconds) Wie unglücklich bin nit (K. 125g) found him almost in a baritone range, and the Lied der Freiheit (K. 506) was bouncy and animated, with crystal clear diction. Song three was certainly the highlight, and the warm Abendempfindung (K. 523) had a questioning plea over soft arpeggios from Mr. Zivian, and ascending and descending soft scales from Mr. Stegall. It was the longest song and caught a plaintive and sad character. Applause was heavy.

Ending the concert was the G Minor Beethoven Trio, Op. 121a, with Mr. Zivian using a Mendelssohn-era piano. Following a long somber introduction the music is light hearted, and the trio played it that way. Ms. Blumenstock at times used a Spiccato bow in variations with clipped phrases and each variation seemed to ease naturally into then next one.

Thematic projection qualities from the violin and cello fit the 1824 work perfectly, though the top notes in the piano had a peculiar electric piano tone quality without partials. The composer’s phenomenal command of the variation form was everywhere in evidence, and the Accelerando to the end brought the concert to a vivid close.

There was no encore and refreshments were served on the auditorium’s breezy and sunny deck, a happy VOM tradition set to carry through the additional seven concerts of the second year of the Festival.