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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
Astrologue Productions / Sunday, April 22, 2012
Kenn Gartner, pianist

Pianist Kenn Gartner

GARTNER PLAYS FAMILIAR CHOPIN IN APRIL 22 RECITAL AT MARIN'S J-B PIANO

by John Metz
Sunday, April 22, 2012

Marin pianist Kenn Gartner performed a recital April 22 at San Rafael’s J-B Piano. The all-Chopin program was not particularly adventurous but easily accessible for audiences and a safe bet for getting the more reluctant concertgoers to attend.

Mr. Gartner’s Chopin playing is refreshing because of the freedom, nonchalance, and rawness with which he plays familiar repertoire. In this 21st Century world of cookie-cutter super virtuosos, a pianist who has the guts to go onstage and just be himself is rare.

The program began with one of Chopin’s most famous melodies, familiar to even to those with limited knowledge of classical piano repertoire: the E-flat major Nocturne from Opus 9. Gartner took an unusually slow tempo to start, but soon abandoned it, adopting several other tempi throughout the piece. He utilized a vast palette of tonal colors, and there were some magical moments where the performer drew the listener in with surprising pianissimos and striking rubato. Though in general, the tone for this piece was muscular and the rhythm seemed amorphous.

One of the afternoon’s highlights was the epic G minor Ballade. As was true of the Nocturne, tempi in this work shifted dramatically throughout, which reduced the overall cohesiveness of the Ballade, and made what otherwise would be a united whole into more choppy vignettes of this, that, and the other. Mr. Gartner’s strength in the Ballade was his willingness to let go and pull out all the stops for the climaxes. And he gave new life to lines in the music that many performers often neglect. Yet there was often a sense of too much trying. Too much muscle in the tone, overplaying the rubato and wrong or missing notes.

The Two Nocturnes of Op. 27 are among Chopin’s best works in the genre. The first of the two, the Nocturne in C-Sharp Minor, has serene and introspective outer sections pitted against a dramatic whirlwind in the middle. And the second, in D-flat major is, or should be, nothing short of spiritual. I wanted to hear more tonal beauty in these performances, though I appreciated the pianist's careful attention to the often hidden musical lines of the D flat. And in the famous Military Polonaise of Op. 40, I missed the excitement of the polonaise rhythm. Mr. Gartner brought out the drama of the Op. 40 Polonaise in C minor, highlighting the abrupt and enormous dynamic contrasts within an overall melancholy quality. And he played the lovely G-flat major Impromptu, Op. 51, with great speed. Yet I wanted the pianist to charm the audience even more with this wonderfully wistful piece.

The recital closed with Chopin’s famous Heroic Polonaise in A-flat major, Op. 53. In this work the technical centerpiece is the rousing moto perpetuo bass octaves in the middle section. Mr. Gartner executed these with great facility and I appreciated that the octaves had shape and started quiet, growing louder only as the right hand melody grew, keeping the listener in suspense as he approached the more dramatic climaxes. As with most the afternoon’s playing, accuracy was lacking, and the tone seemed harsh. But then again, the Heroic Polonaise is a rather loud piece.

For an encore, there was the famous D-Flat Major Waltz from Op. 62, "Minute."