The musicians of the Valley of the Moon Music Festival will return to the Hanna Boys Center in Sonoma next Sunday for the start of their annual summer event. This year the Festival celebrates the world of Robert Schumann over three consecutive weekends, July 16–30, juxtaposing the composer’s own compositions with chamber works by composers he idolized and championed.
Making their Festival debut are violinists Jennifer Frautschi and pianist Jeffrey LaDeur. Artists returning this year include Liana Bérubé, Elizabeth Blumenstock, Nikki Einfeld, Cynthia Freivogel, Eric Hoeprich, Monica Huggett, Carla Moore, Holly Piccoli, Kyle Stegall, and Festival Directors Tanya Tomkins and Eric Zivian. Valley of the Moon Music Festival is the first and only organization in the US devoted exclusively to presenting the chamber music of the Classical and Romantic eras, performed on instruments built when the music was written.
“Schumann was not only a brilliant composer, he was also an influential critic who wrote with passion and humor about the struggles and ecstasies of his contemporaries and musical precursors,” said Tomkins. “This year’s program presents Schumann’s music alongside the music of composers he listened to and relevant excerpts of his criticism in an effort to immerse audiences more deeply into his world. This summer Schumann is both our mentor and tour guide.”
“To give two examples,” added Zivian, “Schumann loved Mozart and was Chopin’s greatest fan, but he heard these composers in a way that would be unfamiliar to an audience hearing their music on modern instruments. By performing on period instruments with attention to historical practices, our musicians aspire to present Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet or Chopin’s Cello Sonata as Schumann might have heard these works during his lifetime.”
Highlights of the Festival include the opening concert on Sunday, July 16, featuring Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet with virtuoso clarinetist Eric Hoeprich. In addition, Hoeprich and lyric coloratura Nikki Einfeld will perform music by Schumann, Chopin and the Danish composer Gade, whom Schumann deemed unjustly neglected and “deserving of a laurel crown.” Joining Hoeprich and Einfeld on this date are Blumenstock and Piccoli on violins, Moore on viola, Tomkins on cello and Zivian on fortepiano.
Kyle Stegall, a tenor who was received with great enthusiasm in the 2016 Festival, returns for the second weekend. On Saturday, July 22, he performs songs and arias by Schumann and Chopin, including rarely performed selections from Chopin’s collection of Polish songs. Chopin and Bach were two composers Schumann admired above all, and this concert’s program includes Bach’s seminal Chaconne for solo violin performed by Blumenstock; several keyboard works by Bach, Chopin and Liszt performed by Zivian and LaDeur; and the Chopin Cello Sonata performed by LaDeur and Tomkins.
The following day’s concert takes its title, “Fair Queen of my Heart,” from a verse in Schumann’s Liederkreis referring to the fatal power of love. Stegall and Zivian take the spotlight in the first half of the concert in a recital of songs by Clara Schumann, Fanny Mendelssohn and Liszt. Rounding out the program is Mozart’s Piano Quartet in E-flat, performed by the Festival’s apprentices. The apprentices, comprising a handpicked group of talented young chamber musicians with an interest in historic instruments, will join the Festival’s seasoned artists for each of the final four concerts.
The third weekend of the Festival welcomes ace violinists Huggett and Freivogel, and in the final concert two-time Grammy nominee and Avery Fisher career grant recipient Jennifer Frautschi in a rare performance on gut strings. This weekend features three concerts including a matinee on Sunday, July 30 at 11 a.m.
On Saturday, July 29, the Festival explores the chamber music of three composers Schumann championed: Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms. Huggett and Freivogel are joined by Piccoli, Moore, Tomkins and Zivian in a program including Schubert’s Trio in E-flat, a Beethoven Violin Sonata and Brahms’ Sextet in G major. The following day’s matinee at 11 a.m., titled “Only Genius Entirely Understands Genius,” explores the music of Schumann’s wife, Clara, a piano prodigy, in her Romances for Violin and Piano, followed by one of Schumann’s own String Quartets and Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio in D minor.
The Festival comes to a close with a second concert on Sunday, July 30 at 4 p.m. Niccolò Paganini’s famous Caprice No. 24 in A minor for solo violin, performed by Frautschi, sets the tone for the works to follow. LaDeur performs solo keyboard works by Liszt and Schumann, and the concert ends with Brahms’ masterful Piano Quintet in F minor.
At the conclusion of each concert, audience members are invited to mingle with the artists over a complimentary glass of wine on the patio of the Hanna Center. Among this year’s partner wineries are Bar None’s Canyon, Benziger Family Winery, Buena Vista Winery, Idell Family Vineyards, Kivelstadt Cellars, McIlroy Cellars and Meadowcroft Wines.
Special events include a post-concert discussion from the stage led by KDFC radio’s Rik Malone at the opening concert on July 16. On July 30, there will be a picnic lunch catered by the Girl and the Fig Restaurant with a conversation led by Harvard musicologist Kate van Orden, titled “The Composer as Journalist.” Admission to each concert is $45 including all fees, with a 50% discount to individuals under the age of 30. Festival programming is subject to change. For details of individual concerts, see our upcoming weekly calendars of music. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit valleyofthemoonmusicfestival.org.