Valley of the Moon Music Festival’s 5th Season Focuses on Salonnières

photo: Margo Moritz

The Valley of the Moon Music Festival (VMMF) opens in Sonoma in just two weeks. VMMF is the first and only organization in the US devoted to presenting the chamber music of the Classical and Romantic eras performed on instruments characteristic of when the music was written. The Festival’s Fifth Anniversary Season will pay tribute to Europe’s powerful 19th century salonnières, women who worked to advance the careers and reputations of composers from Bach to Stravinsky. Returning to the Hanna Center Auditorium in Sonoma July 14–28, the Festival will make a musical tour of several salons including those of Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel in Leipzig, Sara Levy in Berlin and Winnaretta Singer, “Princesse de Polignac,” in Paris.

“Europe’s salonnières were the ‘influencers’ of their day,” said Festival Co-Founder and Artistic Director Tanya Tomkins. “Through their salons they helped to shape the musical taste of their time, bringing together great performers, composers and intellectuals. They promoted Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt and Fauré, among many others.”

“Several of the salonnières were excellent artists in their own right,” added Festival Co-Founder and Music Director Eric Zivian, “individuals like Maria Wilhelmine von Thun, praised for her keyboard playing, and composers Fanny Mendelssohn and Clara Schumann, several of whose works will be featured on our program.” Additional salons to be explored include those of Pauline Viardot and Cristina Trivulzio di Belgiojoso, both in Paris.

This season’s program will continue the Festival’s foray into early 20th century chamber music  performed on gut strings—as it would have been at the time—with Igor Stravinsky’s Three Pieces for String Quartet from 1914/18. Stravinsky was a regular at Singer’s Parisian salon, a source of many significant musical commissions.

Rachel Barton Pine

Among the world-renowned players and teaching artists to participate this summer is American violinist Rachel Barton Pine, in her Festival debut. She will perform César Franck’s aptly named “Trio de Salon” as well as Ernest Chausson’s Concerto for violin and piano with string quartet accompaniment. Other new faces will include esteemed Canadian violinist Marc Destrubé as a faculty artist.

In addition to Tomkins on cello and Zivian on fortepiano, returning artists include Liana Bérubé, violin; Elizabeth Blumenstock, violin; Madeleine Bouïssou, cello; Christian De Luca, piano; Nikki Einfeld, soprano; Cynthia Freivogel, violin; Andrew Gonzalez, viola; Eric Hoeprich, clarinet; Phyllis Kamrin, viola; Jeffrey LaDeur, fortepiano; Carla Moore, violin; Anna Presler, violin; and Kyle Stegall, tenor.

Kate van Orden, Harvard University’s Dwight P. Robinson, Jr. Professor of Music, will lead the Festival’s second annual Blattner Lecture Series, endowed by a gift from Kimberly and Simon Blattner. Through this Series, the Festival will present several pre-concert lectures by experts in music and the arts, providing greater context to each program.

Concerts take place at 4:00 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, July 14–28. An additional 11:00 a.m. concert is scheduled for Sunday, July 28. Tickets, $45 for single concerts with discounts available, are on sale now. For more information visit valleyofthemoonmusicfestival.org.

Written by Jonathan Harris
San Francisco Early Music Society