Original Instruments Reign: Valley of the Moon Music Fest

Make for Sonoma for sounds of a different century.

IF TIME-TRAVELING BACK... to 1822 to hear a piece by Beethoven played on the instruments it was written for is not in the works for you this summer -- perhaps you didn't plan ahead or haven't found the crucial parts required to construct an era-hopping device -- there are ways to find that winsome experience. Finding some classical musicians familiar with the works of the great composers is key, and having them play those pieces on the fortepiano or a violin is a pleasure to behold in person. But being there in person doesn't require you making for 1822 or Salzburg or Vienna or the places and times the masters were penning the famous chamber music pieces we know today; you only need to get to Sonoma on the last weekend of July or the first weekend of August. The Valley of the Moon Music Festival, the "first US festival entirely devoted to classical and romantic music on original instruments," is in full, festive swing at the Hanna Boys Center in Sonoma.

VIVA LA DIFFERENCE: "Many people don't realize that composers such as Beethoven, Mozart, and Schubert can sound very different when played on the instruments from their own period," said the festival's co-founder Eric Zivian. "There is a warmth and depth of sound that can be truly breathtaking." Warm/deep sound is a topic beloved by music fans, who can happily parse at length the various electronic ways of experiencing a song (vinyl vs. digital being the hot topic). But rarer does the debate center around modern-made instruments and those with an actual tie to the time the piece in question was written.

SCHUBERT, MOZART, BEETHOVEN... are some of the names in the proverbial marquee lights for this new fest, and the roster of today's musicians grabbing their bows and violins is impressive. Call it a fresh and yet ye olde way to soak in the sounds of another century. And to be in Sonoma on a fine summer's day, filled with music and majesty and time-travel-y thoughts? Add that to the pure pleasure column.

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