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Chamber
TURINA PERFORMANCE HIGHLIGHTS SSU FACULTY CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 29, 2023
Chamber
ROMANTIC FERVOR IN FRISSON ENSEMBLE'S RAC CONCERT
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Symphony
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by Steve Osborn
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Choral and Vocal
ORGAN-CHOIR COMBO IN BACH CELEBRATION
by Terry McNeill
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Recital
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by Judy Walker
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Choral and Vocal
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by Terry McNeill
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Choral and Vocal
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by Abby Wasserman
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Choral and Vocal
SILVER ANNIVERSARY BACH RECITAL AT INCARNATION'S EVENSONG SERVICE
by Terry McNeill
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Symphony
JOY, LOVELY DIVINE SPARK!
by Steve Osborn
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Other
DINOVA PIANISM CHARMS SATED AUDIENCE AT J-B MARIN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
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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.