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Chamber
UBER VIOLISTS AT MUSIC IN THE VINEYARDS
by Steve Osborn
Friday, August 08, 2014
Full disclosure. I'm an amateur--very amateur--violist, so Friday's Music in the Vineyards concert in Napa Valley was of particular interest to me. The program featured two sextets with prominent viola parts; a trio for viola, flute and piano; and the pièce de résistance: a quartet for four violas. ...
Chamber
PIANO SONOMA JAMS IN FINAL WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, August 03, 2014
PianoSonoma concluded its artist-in-residence performances August 3 in a sparkling Weill Hall concert where mostly new music overshadowed conventional fare. Mendelssohn’s popular D Minor Trio began the program in a workmanlike performance that never quite caught fire. Tempos throughout were judici...
Symphony
A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, August 02, 2014
The audience filing into Saturday's National Youth Orchestra concert at Weill Hall in Rohnert Park was greeted by the sight and sound of 120 teenaged musicians furiously warming up and clad in a patriotic outfit of red pants and sneakers, white shirts and … black blazers, ties and scarves? So much f...
Opera
A PROVOCATIVE DON GIOVANNI AT MENDOCINO FESTIVAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, July 18, 2014
At each Mendocino Music Festival a key evening is given over to a staged opera in the big tent, and last year Rossini’s frothy “Il Signor Bruschino” was an audience hit but hardly comprehensive operatic fare. Times change. Mozart’s weighty opera Don Giovanni was given a propulsive but often confus...
Recital
UNHURRIED COMMAND IN MENDO FESTIVAL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 17, 2014
Pianist Robert Schwartz opened Mendocino Music Festival’s piano series July 17 with a set of works in a recital made for keyboard connoisseurs. His success was doubly gratifying for the artist as he had played on the same stage at last year’s Festival, but had to cancel most of the recital due to il...
Symphony
A MUSIC OFFERING IN A SONIC MIXTURE
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Bach’s iconic D Minor Clavier Concerto was the centerpiece in the fourth day of Mendocino Music Festival events July 16 in the big tent concert hall, with San Francisco-based Stephen Prutsman the featured artist. Conducting a chamber orchestra of ten from a lidless piano, Mr. Prutsman took fast te...
Choral and Vocal
A CAPAPELLA FEVER AHH
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Choral singing, especially unaccompanied by piano or orchestra, seldom gets exposure at a summer music festival. So it was a surprise July 16 to find the Mendocino Music Festival featuring a full program of a capella singing in downtown Mendocino’s Preston Hall. Perhaps due to the local performers...
Symphony
DRAMATIC SUMMER MUSICAL FARE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Monday, July 14, 2014
Napa’s Festival Del Sole’s summer resident orchestra, Sphinx, made a dramatic Weill Hall appearance July 15 with three star performers and a curious mix of pungent repertoire. Violinist Pinchas Zuckerman received the biggest adulation from the audience, closing the first half playing Bruch’s G Mino...
Chamber
SUMMER SCHUBERT SUNSHINE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 27, 2014
Though not as well known as the formidable Trio Navarro, the Amaryllis Trio has had an increasing chamber music presence since 2012 with manifold Sonoma and Marin County concerts. Sebastopol’s St. Stephen's Church and the Numina Center for the Arts hosted them June 27 in a sparkling concert of four ...
Chamber
A ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME BRASS CONCERT
by Philip Beard
Thursday, June 12, 2014
"I think I just died and went to heaven" is a stock phrase for times of unusual bliss. On June 12 at SSU's Green Music Center, I didn't in fact die, but the 2½ hours spent listening to the National Brass Ensemble came as close to a brass player's heaven as I can imagine. The hall was all but sold o...
RECITAL REVIEW
Concerts Grand / Sunday, April 15, 2012
Natasha Paremski, piano

Natasha Paremski Bows April 15 Following The Hersch Variations

NATASHA PAREMSKI BRINGS DOWN THE HOUSE AND FINAL CONCERTS GRAND CURTAIN APRIL 15 IN NEWMAN

by Kenn Gartner
Sunday, April 15, 2012

Local favorite Natasha Paremski presented the final Concerts Grand recital of the ninth season April 15 with an eclectic program of super rare and super popular piano music. It was an exciting afternoon.

Miss Paremski is a deft verbal commentator with audiences and has great command of the instrument. Her octaves were almost like machine guns and her finger work in each of the five programmed pieces was elegant when necessary and forceful during passages which required strength.

The concert in SRJC’s Newman Auditorium began with Brahms’ F Sharp Major Sonata, Op.2, a work totally absent from programs in my memory. Her interpretation exceeded that of Julius Katchen, the pianist often associated with the recorded Brahms‘ oeuvre. Throughout the sonata there were huge contrasts in dynamics which helped delineate conversations between high and low registers, but occasionally this was accompanied by harsh sounds in the piano’s treble. The first movement begins with fistfuls of octaves done with drama and panache, and the second theme, two quarter notes plus a triplet, was heard clearly. The second movement developed large contrasts from piano
pianissimo to forte fortissimo and Ms. Paremski projected them with aplomb.

As with the program's concluding piece, Prokofiev's 7th Sonata, Brahms' third movement Scherzo allegro has a "military" configuration and difficult grace-note turns, which at speed are pesky, but here they were clear and sounded like explanations. The finale's subtle repeat showed how the artist could shade recurrent motives, albeit with a pedal that often blurred the line. It was rushed playing. The pianist's body English was ever present and enjoyed by the nearly packed audience. A standing ovation was the reward.

Jazz pianist Fred Hersch's Variations on a Theme from Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony closed th first half, in its second performance anywhere. The premiere was April 14 at Sacramento State University. Written for Miss Paremski, the variations are not traditional in any sense and are tonal throughout with lots of 16th notes in both hands and triplets abounding. One variation had the left hand doing figurations over the right, followed by the right over the left, and the pianist wasn't happy with the results, saying "thanks Fred" and began the phrase again. The crowd loved her insoucience and me too. These innovative variations were certainly diverse: a tango, high register song, a Joplin knock off, bitonatity. New music performance is to be applauded and the composer Guillaume Machaut said "anything not composed within the past two weeks is not worth listening to."

Using the score, the performance didn't sound like it was sight read. Mr. Hersch could not have a better advocate for his work.

Two Chopin works began the second half, the dramatic F Minor Fantasie and the D Flat Berceuse (Op.57) with its rocking left hand ostinato figuration. In the Fastasie, one of Chopin's greatest works, Ms. Paremsky underscored the improvisitory and march-like passages, and in the sorcery of the Berceuse the ascending and descending right-hand arabesques were played with delicacy. The Fantasie was a "modern" performance with little rhythmic flexibility but interesting sforzando effects. It was a big boned conception.

Prokofiev's B-Flat Sonata was billed as the artist's signatue piece and she pushed the already fast tempos in the outer movements. The opening Allegro inquieto has a passage of nearly 32 bars which gets louder and faster and more agitato, and here Ms Paremski drove the envelope at least as far as Horowitz, and it was thrilling. The bluesy, jazzy interlude of a a second movement (a rose between two thorns?) received a calm and thoughtful interprepation, setting the stage for the famous precipitato finale. Here the 7/8 meter has an ostinato consisting of five notes over two measures, played in octaves. This is similar to the "clave" in Latin music. She stormed though it with hardly a nod to rubato or release, but the composer was said to have wanted it played like a machine.

Naturally it generated a storm of applause and Ms. Paremski returned to play Rachmaninoff's lovely C minor Etude Tablauex from Op.33. Here she phrased the captivating melody in what is really a nocturne with elegance and almost nostalgia.