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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
Chamber
SPARKLING WIND, STRING, HARP MUSIC AT DEVON HOUSE GARDEN CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, October 9, 2021
Take a mild autumn evening, a garden gazebo with patterned rugs and lit with soft bulbs, shake in a fine chamber ensemble, add a rising new moon, and you have a recipe for the musical delight that violist Elizabeth Prior presented Oct. 9 in her Devon House Garden Concert series. The Marin Terra Li
Chamber
ONE PIANO, TWO PIANO, THREE PIANO, FORE
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 29, 2021
Schroeder Hall was nearly full July 29 for the final pianoSonoma concert of their season, and presumably the draw and highlight for many of the 150 attending was Bach’s Concerto for Four Pianos. And that performance was probably going to be a North Bay premiere. However, it wasn’t the highl
Chamber
PENULTIMATE VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT FEATURES GORGEOUS VOCALISM
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Thursday, July 29, 2021
The 2021 Valley of the Moon Music Festival continued on July 29 with a sumptuous online offering of French songs, concluding with the second piano quartet by Fauré, Op. 45. Such a beautiful bouquet of video performances wonderfully filmed and recorded softened the disappointment of not being able to
Chamber
BOGAS' TENURE ENDS IN OUTDOOR GUALALA CHAMBER CONCERT
by Iris Lorenzfife
Sunday, July 25, 2021
The preconcert call that music lovers should gather at Gualala Arts July 25 to attend the final Roy Bogas and Friends Concert was not quite as dire as it sounded. It seems that a year of Covid 19 and an 88th birthday had combined to convince Mr. Bogas that he was working too hard. But with cellist P
Chamber
CLARA SCHUMANN TRIO COMMANDS VOM CHAMBER MUSIC CONCERT AT HANNA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 24, 2021
The Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Series has begun several virtual and a few live concerts in its new seventh season, some broadcast from Sonoma’s Hanna Center Hall and some in posh local venues. July 24’s video had a small live audience and a well-produced video program of three works. Titled “
Chamber
RARE LANG SONGS SPARKLE AT VOM FESTIVAL VIDEO RECITAL
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Unexpected pleasures are often the best. Valley of the Moon Chamber Festival presented a such a pleasure last week-a July 21 recorded performance by tenor Kyle Stegall and pianist Eric Zivian in another mini-recital (very mini-just 15 minutes!) of six songs by the nineteenth century German composer
Chamber
EXEMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MENDO FESTIVAL FT. BRAGG CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Faced with the impossibility of presenting concerts in the iconic large white tent on the bluff, the Mendocino Music Festival opted to use Ft. Bragg’s Cotton Auditorium for ten events in the abbreviated 35th season. San Francisco’s Alexander String Quartet played July 21 to a fully masked audience
Chamber
ECLECTIC PROGRAMMING AT PIANOSONOMA CONCERT IN SCHROEDER HALL
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Tuesday, July 20, 2021
After a dark year bereft of live performance, pianoSonoma launched July 20 the first Vino & Vibrato concert of the 2021 season in Sonoma State's Schroeder Hall, albeit sadly senza vino due to Covid protocols. Three exceptional musicians showered the audience with an interesting variety of pia
CHAMBER REVIEW
Piano Sonoma / Thursday, July 29, 2021
Michael Shinn, Jessica Shinn, Christina Wu and Peter Dugan, Piano; Anita Graef, cello

l to r: T. Cabaniss, M. and J. Shinn

ONE PIANO, TWO PIANO, THREE PIANO, FORE

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 29, 2021

Schroeder Hall was nearly full July 29 for the final pianoSonoma concert of their season, and presumably the draw and highlight for many of the 150 attending was Bach’s Concerto for Four Pianos. And that performance was probably going to be a North Bay premiere.

However, it wasn’t the highlight, that honor going to another premiere, the world premiere of Thomas Cabaniss’ Suite for Two Pianos, “Trinity Pass.” Each of the four sections was preceded by a segment of the composer’s own poetry, read at stage left by Kara Dugan, and played by pianists Jessica and Michael Shinn. The initial movement “Swoop” was tonal, as was the work throughout, with occasional Lisztian rumblings. “Brooms” had a faintly oriental character with busy fusillades of notes from both instruments, a Forte march and an occasional Fermata respite.

The more lyrical “Games of Catch” came next, played with judicious tempos, odd echoes of minimalist music, and exuberant sections combining a mélange of compositional ideas. The finale (“Cathedral Ceiling”) had a slow introduction that jumped into a toccata part, slightly heroic in places, with several short points of rest in the score. The off-beat majestic accents were telling, sometimes dissonant, and the Shinns were equal partners in the unique celebration of sound.

“Trinity Pass” was a champagne orgy of color in rich piano sound, and at the finish of loud tremolos from both instruments bravos broke forth, and Mr. Cabaniss was called from the back of the hall to accept an ovation.

What could safely follow such a dynamic opening? An atmospheric Takemitsu work, Rain Tree Sketch, performed by pianist Christine Wu, and she had recently splendidly played on the same stage Chopin’s Op. 17 Mazurkas. Rain Tree was written memory of Messiaen, and there were references to the French master’s music, especially the 1944 Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant Jésus. Ms. Wu’s playing caught the languorous nature of the music and used a lot of airy pedal point.

Three sections of Saint-Saëns’ Carnaval of the Animals featured cellist Anita Graef joining the Shinns, the extravagant sounds of “Kangaroos” and “Wild Donkeys” preceding the iconic “The Swan," with the cello joining in. Ms. Graef’s intonation and careful phrasing were good, but her lightweight projection was often covered by the pianos. Swan never fails with an audience, and did not here.

Milhaud’s 1937 Scaramouche for two pianos is another crowd pleaser, and the composer was for decades well known in the SF Bay area at Mills College, and for his three-hour plus Opera “Christophe Colomb” and a remark that Brahms was an overrated composer. Ms. Wu and Peter Dugan gave the work a rollicking ride, loud, pushing the tempos with a brittle blur of sound that perhaps is appropriate. The samba at the end was played as a brilliant dance.

What happened to the seminal Bach, the A Minor Concerto (BWV 1065)? It closed the program, and featured four pianists (the Shinns, Ms. Wu and Mr. Dugan) and four string players: cellists Ms. Graef and Michael Dahlberg; Julian Graef (viola) and violinist Doori Na. I can only recall one long ago multi piano concerto performance in Sonoma County, with Norma and Corrick Brown joining San Francisco virtuoso William Corbett-Jones and the Santa Rosa Symphony, but that was Mozart, the K. 242 Concerto. Corrick conducted from the piano, but here there was no conductor and it was clear from the fast opening tempo that the concert Yamahas would overwhelm the string players. They were seen with busy bows but not heard.

It was nearly 13 minutes of sonorous counterpoint, the outer movements often indistinct at instrument entries, and leavened by the wonderful Largo that at times was played without any strings but with choice modulations. The tempo in the concluding Allegro looked like it would push the music off the rails, but it never did, and finished with a roar of applause in a standing ovation.

Mr. Shinn mentioned that pianoSonoma would return to the Green Music Center in 2022, and thanked the Green’s staff and Executive Director Jacob Yarrow for stellar support. In his plentiful appreciation remarks he forgot to mention the hard work of Festival piano technicians, Will Reed (primo) and his colleague Larry Lobel (segundo) that crafted four instruments into a mighty one for Bach’s enthralling concerto.