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Recital
A WANDERING MILLER IN SCHUBERT'S AGELESS CYCLE
by Mark Kratz
Sunday, April 24, 2016
The Green Center’s Weill Hall is a Sonoma County treasure that allows North Bay audiences to enjoy the world’s finest musicians against the backdrop of our grapevine-covered hills. German baritone Matthias Goerne and pianist Alexander Schmalcz presented a recital of Schubert’s song cycle "Die Schön...
Recital
EERIE SCHUBERT AND SOPORIFIC BRAHMS IN MIDORI RECITAL IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 23, 2016
California has long been a big part of Midori Goto’s career, and she now teaches and tours from the USC campus in Los Angeles. After never performing in Sonoma County, the violinist’s area debut April 23 in Weill was a moderate success before an audience of 800 that included a large sprinkling of s...
Recital
CHRISTIE RETURNS TO SCHROEDER WITH THE FAMILIAR AND THE NEW
by James Harrod
Sunday, April 17, 2016
Organist James David Christie returned to Schroeder Hall on the SSU campus April 17 to play an awesome concert of Baroque music on the Hall’s Brombough Opus 9 organ. The artist performed to a large appreciative and attentive audience, and presented both familiar and unknown musical selections from t...
Recital
OAKMONT 25TH ANNIVERSARY CONCERT FEATURES KAHANE'S SCHUBERT AND CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 10, 2016
Jeffery Kahane spreads his musical largess widely. Since leaving a Sonoma County residence for Colorado the pianist has returned often for performances, the most recent the wildly successful ChamberFest series at the Green Music Center last summer. April 10 found him again in Sonoma County, this t...
Recital
LISZT AND CHOPIN THE VEHICLE FOR ELEGANT PIANISM IN WATTS' WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Nicki Bell
Friday, April 01, 2016
In the public eye for more than 50 years, Andre Watts is a legendary American pianist from the bygone era of William Kapell and Gary Graffman. Dressed in concert tails, old fashioned now to some, he reverted April 1 to a another long ago virtuoso’s choice by bringing to his Weill Hall recital his o...
Recital
STUNNING BROWNLEE RECITAL IN WEILL CAPPED BY HIGH C'S
by Peter Benecke
Friday, March 11, 2016
Tenor Lawrence Brownlee gave a March 11 Weill Hall recital that treated those who were willing to brave the elements to an evening of great artistry, sensitivity and vocal perfection. The musical world has come to expect seamless agility, vocal fireworks and seemingly endless high notes from the be...
Recital
TRAVELING VIRTUOSO AND HIS ORGAN IN SPLASHY WEILL CONCERT
by James Harrod
Friday, February 12, 2016
Few concerts in Weill Hall are really “over the top.” Inspiring, dramatic and even deliciously splashy won’t really qualify for that sobriquet. But Cameron Carpenter’s Feb. 12 organ recital was sensational in every way. Traveling with his four-manual electronic organ and a special setup crew, Mr....
Recital
FAN RETURNS TO OAKMONT IN AN ECLECTIC RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 11, 2016
New York-based pianist Joel Fan hasn’t been a stranger to Sonoma County, having played in both the Concerts Grand and Music at Oakmont venues. February 11 he returned to Oakmont’s Berger Auditorium in an eclectic and often electric recital before 200. Beginning with Ginastera’s first Sonata Op. 22...
Recital
BACH AND BUXTEHUDE ORGAN MASTERY IN MORGAN'S SCHROEDER RECITAL
by James Harrod
Sunday, January 31, 2016
Stanford University organist Robert Huw Morgan played an exciting and interesting program of Baroque music in Schroeder Hall January 31, performing the entire concert with faultless virtuosity. The recital’s program consisted of both familiar and unfamiliar selections, and his choices were familiar...
Recital
INSPIRED SCHUBERT IN BRILLIANT HAMELIN RECITAL IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, January 22, 2016
In addition his brilliant pianism, Marc-André Hamelin has built a substantial international career by embracing unconventional repertoire and innovative transcriptions. Who else plays Catoire, Hofmann, Chopin-Godowsky, Dukas, Medtner and…Hamelin? So the Canadian’s Jan. 22 Weill Hall recital was a ...
RECITAL REVIEW
Concerts Grand / Sunday, February 26, 2012
Lara Downes, piano

Lara Downes Playing Sheng's Variation Fugato Feb. 26 (Joan Louie Photo)

13 COMPOSERS CHASE BACH'S GOLDBERG ARIA AT LARA DOWNES' NEWMAN HALL RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 26, 2012

A popular way to reach a wide classical audience is to find a musical niche, playing unfamiliar works with an uncommon passion. Lara Downes has been an ingratiating niche pianist for years, presenting programs of Roy Harris, William Balcom and Aaron Jay Kernis, and lately a unique recital built around Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Before a Newman Auditorium audience Feb. 26 Ms. Downes brought her “13 Ways of Looking at Goldberg” program in the fifth recital of the Concerts Grand season.

The set of 13 “re-imaginings” of the Goldberg (BWV 988) comes from 2004 and enlists 13 contemporary composers contributing works of fewer than four minutes related to the famous 32-measure aria. The composers are either well known names (Balcom, Higdon, Sheng, Del Tredici, Foss, Hersch, Gothóni) or obscure, but each sheds light on Bach’s melodic genius and along the way exemplifies manifold moods. The pianist’s verbal descriptions were pithy and informative.

Ms. Downes read from an I Pad electronic score throughout, each page actuated by a foot switch next to the piano’s shift pedal, but mostly she played scant attention to the notes. Her playing of the opening a closing Bach aria was brisk, more in the style of the 1955 Gould recording than the newly lauded Simone Dinnerstein reading. Especially notable in the unfolding panoply of contemporary renditions were Fred Lerdahl’s Chasing Goldberg and C. Curtis-Smith’s Rube Goldberg Variation. Here Ms. Downes played with a facile technique and a chaste tone, her pedaling and cross-hand execution deft. None of the works require an orchestral sound and the artist was content to underscore a natural progression of the 13, the actual order selected by Ms. Downes and recently recorded. She never seemed to be in a hurry to get anywhere and the lovely Melancholy Minuet of Fred Hersch was performed with a nostalgic glow.

After prolonged applause Ms. Downes offered a rare gem from the nonagenarian Dave Brubeck, a five-minute improvisatory piece that moved irresistibly through many keys and moods, the harmonies piquant. The juxtaposition of the encore with the 13 composers and the always contemporary Bach was adroit and convincing.

Ms. Downes substituted for the originally announced program of pianist Evgeni Mikhailov, who was unable to obtain a visa in Moscow.

The reviewer is the producer of the Concerts Grand series.