Valley of the Moon Music Festival Prepares for Season 9 This July

Valley of the Moon Music Festival 9th Season JULY 15-30 2023


Season features chamber versions of works for large orchestra by Beethoven, Stravinsky, Chopin, Wagner, Ravel, and others, new collaboration with the La Luz Center in Sonoma, and special “Evening of Song”

Sonoma, CA–Over three weekends in July, at the Hanna Center Auditorium in beautiful Sonoma, the Valley of the Moon Music Festival (VMMF) offers audiences an exciting new perspective on favorite works of the Classical and Romantic repertoires. Eleven thrilling concerts transform epic concertos and symphonies into intimate works for small groups, all performed on historical instruments.

The rich cultural life and rugged natural landscape of Sonoma set the scene for VMMF’s three weeknight Alfresco Concerts. Stunning chamber music and scenery complement each other at the La Luz Center, Buena Vista Winery and Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. The 9th edition of the Festival also introduces a special weeknight concert devoted to Schumann’s masterwork Dichterliebe.

Co-Festival Directors cellist Tanya Tomkins and fortepianist Eric Zivian are joined by colleagues, Festival Apprentices, and Apprentice Laureates for a multi-generational lineup including award-winning violinists Elizabeth Blumenstock, Rachell Ellen Wong, Francisco Fullana, Marc Destrubé, and Keir GoGwilt, violists Andrew Gonzalez and Liana Bérubé, cellist Elisabeth Reed, and tenor Kyle Stegall.

Valley of the Moon Music Festival reintroduces listeners to repertoire they thought they knew, refreshing ears and minds through historical performance practice. The Festival’s focus on music of the Classical and Romantic eras reminds audiences that historical performance doesn’t just apply to the Baroque. As tastes–and times–changed, so did instruments and performance techniques. Rediscover great works performed on instruments for which the music was written–it was all new music once!

Valley of the Moon Music Festival’s commitment to education extends to its Apprenticeship Program, which presents five emerging artists as students and performers each season. Subsequent seasons welcome Apprentices back as Laureates, young professionals ready to embark on their own careers as musicians and educators. This year’s Laureates include Axel Trolese, fortepiano, Carmen Johnson-Pájaro, violin, David Belkovski, fortepiano, Drake Driscoll, cello, Ravenna Lipchik, violin, and Suren Barry, fortepiano. Generations come together to rediscover and reimagine classic repertoire in diverse and beautiful Sonoma this summer for Valley of the Moon Music Festival’s 9th Season, Transformation: Grand Works on an Intimate Scale. 


Weekend I 

The Festival begins Saturday, July 15, with The Symphony as Trio. Beethoven himself distilled the orchestral ebullience of his Second Symphony down to a trio of just piano, violin, and cello. Intended for home performance since recordings were unavailable, the trio version is both approachable and virtuosic. An 18th-century fortepiano only adds to the intimate ambiance. Mozart’s equally virtuosic G Minor Piano Quartet, which could easily be a piano concerto with the addition of a few more string players, begins the show, and features Festival Laureate Axel Trolese on the fortepiano. Festival Laureates join established period performance mentors for this exciting Festival opener. 

The piano’s potential gets top billing Sunday, July 16, when The Piano as Orchestra features mid-19th-century masters who expanded the instrument’s technical and expressive capacity. Liszt, the Paganini of the piano, set out boldly to take the piano where it had never been, using it to mimic the expressive range of not just the full orchestra, but the operatic voice as well. His genius is on full display in his transcription of the Liebestod from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, performed by virtuoso Axel Trolese. Works by Liszt’s contemporaries, friends, and fellow piano virtuosi Robert and Clara Schumann bookend the program, which opens with Clara’s Four Romances, and ends with Robert’s evergreen Piano Quintet. As part of the Blattner Lecture Series, acclaimed conductor and “expert in 18th century style” (The New Yorker) Nicholas McGegan speaks about the program beforehand at 2:30 pm. 


Weekend II

Weekend II brings concerti to the fore in performances of works for soloist and an orchestra reduced to just a handful of players. Imagine all the fiery panache and hall-filling bravura of a great soloist—made available to friends and family in a living room! First, on Saturday, July 22, The Concerto as Chamber Music features Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante with string quartet in the orchestral role, and VMMF Laureates Rachell Ellen Wong and Andrew Gonzalez in the solo spots. The concert also includes Ravel’s ingenious masterpiece La Valse, transcribed for piano four-hands by a contemporary performed by Suren Barry and David Belkovski, and excerpts from a string quartet by Florence Price. 

On Sunday, July 23, another concerto makes an appearance–Chopin’s Second Piano Concerto. With string quartet accompaniment, the sweep and majesty of Chopin’s graceful piano lines return to the intimate salon for which he composed his many solo works. Festival Laureate Suren Barry shines in the solo role. But the highlight of The Intimate Pastoral is a chamber version of Beethoven’s bucolic Sixth Symphony. One of Beethoven’s few programmatic works, the Pastoral Symphony uses the colors of the orchestra to bring to life vivid countryside scenes. Clarinets are cuckoos, strings a gently flowing brook, the timpani a bout of thunder, but in this concert, you can hear it all played by seven unconducted string players. Before the concert at 2:30 pm, University of California, Berkeley Professor and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra Scholar-in-Residence Francesco Spagnolo delivers a Blattner Series Lecture about the program.


Weekend III

Orchestral masterworks across centuries and styles appear together in this season’s epic final weekend. On Saturday, July 29, Stravinsky’s earth-shattering Rite of Spring brings the house down in a version by the composer for two pianists at one instrument. It’s hard to overstate the influence of Stravinsky’s 1913 ballet, which looked to the ancient in order to imagine something new. Performers Eric Zivian and Festival Laureate Suren Barry use an instrument similar to the one at which Stravinsky would have written the piece. The program opens with Schumann’s doleful Violin Sonata in A Minor performed by Festival Apprentices, and also includes songs by Francis Poulenc.

A special Matinee Concert takes place 11:00 am Sunday, July 30, at the Hanna Boys Center, and features the talents of this year’s five Apprentice Artists, who have just been announced. This year’s Apprentices are: April Sun, fortepiano, Ava Gehlen-Williams, violin, Jasmine Pai, cello, Juliette Greer, violin, and Maren Rothfritz, viola. A shorter concert, this matinee offers the perfect opportunity to meet five charismatic and talented emerging artists as they perform works by Beethoven and Schubert.

The 9th edition of the Festival concludes on Sunday, July 30 with The Eroica for Four, another compelling look at Beethoven’s orchestral music reduced to piano quartet scale. Ferdinand Ries, Beethoven’s devoted pupil and promoter, made this transcription of the Eroica–perhaps Beethoven’s grandest symphony. This year’s VMMF Apprentices tackle the gargantuan offering. The apprentices then join their mentors and colleagues in this year’s sendoff, Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence, a string sextet that’s orchestral in scope. Before the concert, Harvard musicologist and President of the International Musicological Society Kate van Orden discusses the theme of VMMF’s 9th season in the season’s final Blattner Series Lecture, Conversations with Kate.


All concerts begin at 4:00 pm at the Hanna Boys Center in Sonoma, unless otherwise noted, and will also be livestreamed. An outdoor reception follows each concert and features a variety of complimentary wines from local vintners. 


Alfresco Concerts

On weekdays during the Festival’s three-week span, Valley of the Moon Music Festival luxuriates in the glorious natural beauty and mild climate of Sonoma with a series of shorter concerts performed Alfresco. On Tuesday, July 18 at 7:00 pm, La Luz Center welcomes Valley of the Moon Music Festival for a free concert celebrating the diversity of the Sonoma community. La Luz is a beloved family resource center that has served Sonoma Valley’s most vulnerable families for 36 years by strengthening community through family services, economic advancement, and community engagement. La Luz opens its patio to Valley of the Moon Music Festival for a relaxed evening featuring works written by Spanish-speaking composers and performed by Avery Fisher Career Grant recipient violinist Francisco Fullana, violinist Rachell Ellen Wong, violist Andrew Gonzalez, and cellists Rocío López Sánchez and Nick Reeves. Genre-bending baroque-to-folk duo Beneath A Tree, featuring violist Gail Hernández Rosa and bassist Daniel Turkos, also makes an appearance.

Nature and the music it has inspired reunite on Thursday, July 20, at 7:00 pm, for a serenade at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. The concert includes excerpts from a reduction of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, as well as excerpts from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, performed by Avery Fisher Career Grant recipient violinist Rachell Ellen Wong with a mini orchestra of Festival artists. 

And on Tuesday, July 25 at 7:00pm, join Festival Laureate violinist Carmen Johnson-Pájaro and fellow Laureates in the courtyard outside the historic Buena Vista Winery Press House, built in 1862, for an hour of American–and American-inspired–chamber music, with excerpts from string quartets by Florence Price, William Grant Still and George Walker.


A Poet’s Love

This year’s edition of the Festival also includes a special weekday evening concert at the Hanna Boys Center. On Thursday, July 27, at 6:00 pm, Festival Music Director Eric Zivian and tenor Kyle Stegall join forces for a performance of Schumann’s most beloved song cycle, Dichterliebe. Together, Dichterliebe’s 16 songs form a complete work of about 30 minutes and feature nuanced and delicate lyrics by Heinrich Heine about unrequited love, as well as beauty, nature, dreams and the fantastical. This special event draws inspiration from the 19th-century liederabend (literally “evening of song”), a piano-side gathering of friends and amateurs devoted to the then-emerging genre of art song. Engage the artists in conversation during an intimate post-concert reception.


Blattner Lecture Series

Since its Festival debut in 2018, the Blattner Lecture Series has become an integral part of the Valley of the Moon Music Festival, helping contextualize the theme of the season. During each lecture, dynamic and engaging speakers illuminate program repertoire with historical information designed to enhance the concert-going experience. Guest speakers take the stage before Sunday concerts and speak for about an hour. Harvard musicology professor–and Valley of the Moon Music Festival bassoonist–Kate van Orden directs the series, which is free with the purchase of a concert ticket.


Blattner Lectures take place Sundays at 2:30 pm at the Hanna Boys Center 


About the Valley of the Moon Music Festival

Founded in 2015 by festival co-directors and historical performance experts pianist Eric Zivian and cellist Tanya Tomkins, the Valley of the Moon Music Festival reintroduces listeners to the classic repertoire they thought they knew. The modern instruments played today have undergone ceaseless advancement and alteration since their conception. VMMF turns back the clock on musical hardware by using a variety of different historical pianos, gut strings, and bow styles in performance. VMMF is also dedicated to helping audiences understand the historical and cultural context of performance practice through its Blattner Lecture series, a favorite with audiences since its introduction in 2018. Over the course of its eight seasons, VMMF has become a community fixture, winning SF Classical Voice Audience Choice Awards for Best Chamber Performance, Best Instrumental Recital, and Best Vocal Recital in 2021-22. Conceived and created in the town of Sonoma, VMMF is honored to make the beautiful scenery of the Sonoma Valley its home, and a focal point of its offerings. VMMF also prizes its partnerships with area venues, non-profits, and businesses. This season inaugurates an exciting new partnership with the La Luz Center, a dedicated local family resource center. VMMF has always made education a priority and is committed to mentoring and supporting the next generation of musicians specializing in historical performance. Through its Apprenticeship and Laureate programs, the Festival welcomes new and emerging historical performers and provides them both the skills and a platform to embark on exciting careers as performers, curators, and members of the greater musical community. 



$55 General | $30 35 and under

Alfresco Concert $35 General 

A Poet’s Love $75 General 

Matinee $25 General 

Students Free with ID

Festival, Weekend and Virtual passes available. 

Each ticket purchase helps support Valley of the Moon Music Festival. For additional information and to purchase tickets, visit 




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