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San Francisco Classical Voice, Sunday, July 13, 2008
By Jerry Kuderna
With Bravura and Authentic Fire
Westfaelische Rundschau, Monday, August 14, 2006

“Two young artists surprised the public yesterday with exquisite chamber music, having flown in from the USA. However, the violinist Monika Gruber is a native of Dortmund, and still holds strong ties to her homeland. Her pianist comes from Wisconsin and shares with her a love for Robert Schumann, whose pseudonym Eusebius (the expression of his lyrical and melancholy self) gave the duo its name.

“The two likable musicians work together outstandingly. Naturally, their performance included Schumann: his Sonata in D minor op. 121 brought the varied program to a close. Monika Gruber has a soft, clear tone, which she can also imbue with gripping fire. Hillary Nordwell supports her with musical zeal, rich with accents and confidently articulated. They communicated Schumann’s romantic mood-changes sweepingly to the audience.

“They began ‘classically’ with Ludwig van Beethoven’s ‘Spring’ Sonata. Already here they showed vivacity, tender interchanges between the two instruments, and phrasing rich in contrasts. In the Sonata in A major op. 13 by Gabriel Faure (who Monika Gruber called the ‘French Schubert’ in her introduction to the piece), they let themselves be swept away by the élan of this melodic, spacious music. With their bravura, they swept the public along with them, and were thanked with extreme warmth in the audience’s applause.”

“Eusebius” with Bravura
Ruhr Nachrichten, August 14, 2006

“With three virtuosic pieces, the summer matinees in Westfalenpark came to an end Sunday. Monika Gruber (Violin), who was born in Dortmund and now lives in San Francisco played with her pianist Hillary Nordwell, also from San Francisco. As the “Eusebius” Duo, they are committed to the music of Robert Schumann.

“It is the split between the lyrical ‘Eusebius’ and the wildly open ‘Florestan’ (both pseudonyms of Schumann), that also characterizes the playing of the duo. Quick-tempered displays of strength pair themselves with irresistibly melting tone.

“The Schumann D minor Sonata for Violin and Piano stood out as the high point of the program. Furious energy and wandering melodies, motoric drive and gentle singing, came together in a musical expression that was not so much brilliantly soloistic, but instead mirrored the dichotomy between composed depth and artistic interpretation.

“The musical partners seem, even in the smallest nuances, to be in agreement with one another. Thus they are able to keep a very soft tone in the main voice of Beethoven’s ‘Spring’ Sonata. Sensitive and ingenious, the contrasts are vigorously sown with elements of surprise. The songlike passages are drawn out with rubati (deliberate fluctuations in tempo); the joyful passages are lively, communicated with overwhelming intensity.

“In Gabriel Faure’s A major Sonata, by comparison, the sobbing emotion and the lyrical content are finely counterbalanced.

“The representative qualities of Faure’s chamber music, like the expansive themes and the tension-filled, strongly rhythmicized voice leading, are presented on a wide musical canvas, on which the various moments in the piece offer filigree, at times comfortably carried and at other times sharply embedded.

“In summary of this morning: The artists performed the works in passionate, clearly graspable, and not artistically overdone, colors.”