Celebrating the New Year (Portola Valley)

ESF welcomed the new year with a program full of glorious melodies, as well as more than a bit of pure silliness.

Rufus Olivier and Christine Payne began the evening on a charming note, with the Bassoon Sonata by Camille Saint-Saens, full of both pastoral and humorous moments. Next, acclaimed mezzo-soprano Betany Coffland joined the ESF string musicians for Respighi’s Il Tramonto (The Sunset). Composed in 1918, the piece was a success from the start. The whole work is pure musical poetry, intense in its expressiveness, crystalline yet colorful in its instrumentation, and delicate in its harmonies.

The second half of the program opened with the much loved Romance from Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1, performed here in the intimate version for piano and string quartet. This is Chopin at his most operatic, spinning a seamless, highly decorated, bel canto melody over the
merest thread of accompaniment. Last was the tremendously fun Café Music for piano trio. Composer Paul Schoenfield explains, “My intention was to write a kind of high-class dinner music that might (just barely) find its way into a concert hall. The work draws on many of the types of music… early 20th-century American, Viennese, light classical, gypsy, and Broadway styles are all represented.

SAINT-SAENS Sonata for Bassoon and Piano
RESPIGHI Il Tramonto
CHOPIN Piano Concerto No. 1: Romance