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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
SUN'S WARM RECEPTION IN A CHILLY HALL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 10, 2016
Program design for a piano recital is most often a decision to perform a few big sonatas and variations, sometimes by one composer, or a smorgasbord of shorter works. Sophia Sun chose mostly the latter in her local debut recital Jan. 10 before 150 in SRJC’s Newman Auditorium. Sponsored by the Sono...
Recital
SIC TRANSIT GLORIA SIGISMUNDI
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 15, 2015
One often hears of yet another new fiery Russian pianist, and the mental picture is of a 16-year old with octaves and temperament to burn. But older Russian artists can command a virtuoso’s seat the piano, as aptly proved by Mykola Suk in his recital Nov. 15 before 150 in Dominican University’s Ang...
Recital
SENSATIONAL MANDOLIN AND REPARTEE IN THILE'S WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Phil Lawrence
Saturday, November 14, 2015
In Weill Hall Nov. 14 mandolinist Chris Thile treated a large audience to a special presentation not just of Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas, but to a multifaceted performance by a fully mature and genuinely joyful artist of the highest caliber. Those who came expecting to hear a staid classical perfor...
Recital
ENCHANTMENT, REVOLUTION AND NOSTALGIA IN BELL'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy and Nicki Bell
Saturday, October 17, 2015
Violinist Joshua Bell and pianist Sam Haywood played a dazzling concert of sonatas and duos Oct. 17 to a joyfully rapt audience of 1,000 in Weill Hall, and the program showcased two popular A Major sonatas for violin and piano, Beethoven's Op. 47 (“Kreutzer”), and Faure's No. 1, Op. 13. These were...
Recital
LANG LANG LAUNCHES WEILL HALL SEASON WITH EXPLOSIVE MUSICAL TRILOGY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 03, 2015
Lang Lang has performed three times in Sonoma County, all reviewed at Classical Sonoma, and I was anxious when he mounted the Weill Hall stage Oct. 3 to hear what might have changed in his playing since September of 2013. The program was exactly the same as played in recent Paris and Torino recit...
Recital
MYER'S MENDO FESTIVAL RECITAL SPOTLIGHTS MOZART TO BALCOM
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Completing the Mendocino Music Festival’s piano series July 22 was an energetic recital by returning Festival artist Spencer Myer. The nearly full Preston Hall audience was treated to a program, announced from the piano, that had broad musical appeal and panache. Exploring the Festival’s Mozart t...
Recital
ELEGANT SCRIABIN, CHOPIN AND GRANADOS IN MENDO FESTIVAL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 16, 2015
Taiwanese pianist Ching-Yun Hu made a formidable Mendocino Music Festival debut recital July 16 in Mendocino’s Preston Hall. A full house warmly greeted the diminutive artist, and she responded with a pensive and then dramatic performance of Scriabin’s Sonata Fantasy, Op. 19. Writers refer to thi...
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.