AROUND AND ABOUT: Berkeley Period Instrument Musicians Start Up First valley of the Moon Music Festival, July 18-August 2

Ken Bullock
Thursday July 16, 2015 - 09:15:00 AM

Cellist Tanya Tomkins—co-founder of the new Valley of the Moon Music Festival, starting this weekend at Hanna Boys Center in Sonoma, the only festival in the U. S. featuring Classical and Romantic chamber music played on period instruments—recalls when she was "studying and performing in Holland, years ago" she heard the Orchestra of the 18th Century play "a very familiar" Mozart symphony on period instruments. 

"It sounded more radical, not antiquated. It was more progressive, played that way.It shed new light on the music." 

Tomkins remarked on the scarcity of performances of the Classical and Romantic repertoires on period instruments. "It's usually only for Baroque. Once in awhile, a festival or an orchestra will make a quick foray into Schubert, say—but the festival will be completely Classical and Romantic music played on original instruments and copies." 

The Festival features seven concerts, most of them at 4 p. m. at the Hanna Boys Center, a few minutes from the Sonoma Plaza, with chamber music by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Kreutzer, Hummel, Weber and Glinka, played by Tomkins and Zivian with apprentices, colleagues and guest artists from around Europe and North America, including well-known local musicians like violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock. 

Tomkins and pianist Eric Zivian—who founded and continue to produce the Benvenue House Music chamber concerts in Berkeley ( benvenuehousemusic.org )—have played, recorded and taught together for the past decade. Tomkins has also played as both soloist and orchestra member with the Philharmonia Baroque. (Musical director Nicholas McGegan serves on the Valley of the Moon Festival board of directors.) Zivian, a Peter Serkin student, has also played in local groups like the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble. "He's a fortepianist," said Tomkins, "But not a harpsichordist. Which puts us squarely in Post-Baroque repertoire, as far as original instruments go." The Festival will feature Zivian's two period pianos, an 1841 Viennese instrument and a small copy of a Mozart era fortepiano, "perfect for Haydn, Mozart, early Beethoven ..." 

Tomkins and Zivian have "dedicated more and more time to student development, as coaches, mentors," with students playing in their house concerts and now on some of the Festival programs "with more seasoned players" as apprentices, and one concert, at 7:30 on Friday, July 31, featuring all young musicians playing music by Mozart, Schumann and Beethoven, with free admission to the public. 

"I loved learning that way myself," said Tomkins, "playing together for an audience, rather than just one-on-one lessons." 

As for Sonoma and the Hanna Boys Center—at 17000 Arnold Drive and Agua Caliente Road West—Tomkins enthuses about both. 

"Sonoma's gorgeous—and so near us, just an hour from Berkeley. And they're so open to us there, so supportive of the music." She and Zivian have worked with the music program at the 70 year old Hanna Center. "The auditorium is really new, very warm; it seats 300. Perfect recital hall for chamber concerts. And outside is a big terrace with a view, for picnics before the shows, intermissions and receptions with our wine sponsors there, too." 

Programs over the next three weekends include this Sunday's, all pieces featuring clarinet, and an all-Schubert program on Sunday the 26th. 

For tickets—$40 general, $20 for under 30—maps, directions, much information, visit the Festival's excellent website: valleyofthemoonmusicfestival.org/ 

(Daily Planet readers can enter a code— VMMFdailyplanet —for 10% off on tickets.)