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Chamber
UNEXPECTED ARENSKY AND MENDELSSOHN BY THE NAVARRO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
The 100 people entering Schroeder Hall Feb. 17 for a Trio Navarro concert were handed a program that appeared to feature two popular piano trios, Mendelssohn and Arensky. But continuing the Navarro’s tradition of repertoire exploration, the pieces were not the usual first Mendelssohn and first Aren...
Symphony
MENDELSSOHN'S SCOTTISH SAVES THE EVENING IN SRS WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Monday, February 11, 2019
The audience entering Weill Hall for Santa Rosa Symphony concerts Feb. 9-11 were presented with a program that on first glance appeared a curious patchwork – a great symphony mixed with a seldom heard concerto and two disparate overtures, and a guest conductor unknown locally. Monday night’s concer...
Recital
INTRIGUING BELL-HAYWOOD RECITAL BEFORE FULL HOUSE IN WEILL HALL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, February 08, 2019
A big portion of the capacity audience in Weill Hall February 8th came to hear violinist Joshua Bell’s virtuosity, and were treated as well to splendid playing from Sam Haywood, Mr. Bell’s regular pianist since 2010. The duo performed three engaging sonatas, highlighted by Mr. Bell’s sterling techn...
Symphony
TRIPLE PLAY UKIAH SYMPHONY CONCERT AND TCHAIKOVSKY SERENADE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Over the years the Ukiah Symphony’s concerts have been in the Classical Sonoma Calendar sections, but rarely has this Orchestra, now in its 39th season, had a full winter season concert review. The provocative Jan. 27 program in Mendocino College’s Center Theater seemed a good reason to reacquaint ...
Symphony
JACKSON THEATER WELCOMES A NEW RESIDENT ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Moving to a permanent new performance venue can be a perilous undertaking for an orchestra, with different acoustics, the loyal audience finding the new spot and infrastructure challenges of lighting and lobby and backstage operations. In their first concert Jan. 26 in Windsor’s Jackson Theater the...
Symphony
ECLECTIC PASSIONATE PROGRAMMING AT MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 26, 2019
The Marin Symphony’s second Masterworks concert of the 2018-19 season featured works by John Adams, Sibelius and Brahms, a masterful assembly. In a spoken introduction before the program’s first half, conductor Alasdair Neale primed the audience for the “terra incognita” of Adams’ The Chairman Dance...
Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
RECITAL REVIEW
Mendocino Music Festival / Saturday, July 16, 2016
Christopher Atzinger, piano

Pianist Christopher Atzinger

BALANCED VIRTUOSITY IN ATZINGER MMF RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 16, 2016

Pianist Christopher Atzinger’s Mendocino Music Festival recital July 16 in the small Preston Hall looked formidable on paper larded with what might be said to be “non festival, non summer” music.

There were no light Gershwin or Schubert dance works, and for some the six pieces from Brahms’ Op. 118 are winter compositions that need ample cold, rain and fog. However, the Minnesota-based pianist paid no attention to this pedantry and played an echt 118, with the opening Intermezzo full of sweep and drama, followed by the subtle rhythms of the Intermezzo in A. A highlight was the E-Flat final Intermezzo where he captured the mournful mystery of the work but his formidible pedal technique occasionally blurred the surging left hand line. A spot in the sun.

The center of the afternoon’s program was the last work, Barber’s massive Sonata (Op. 26) from 1949. The performance clocked in at just over 20 minutes, slower than the seminal Browning recording and much slower than the pyrotechnical Horowitz version. But the piece needs the “air” that Mr. Atzinger provided to allow the lyricism to penetrate the many Fortissimo sections, especially in the opening Allegro. Adopting a furious pace in the skittish Vivace Mr. Atzinger easily moved into a ravishing reading of the Adagio, playing often the bell-like bass notes in pedal point and with a natural rise and fall of phrase.

In a period of pause he seemed to gird himself to do battle with the final movement’s dissonant and complex fugue, and he conquered it. Clarity of voices is critical here, not easy to do with the volcanic bass chords, but all went to a thrilling and thunderous conclusion. The interpretation and virtuosity in the Barber were among the best I have ever heard.

The nearly full Preston audience responded with an ovation, and Mr. Atzinger played one encore, a new-age bagatelle where inane up and down progressions seemed fatuous after the magisterial Barber.

This one lapse in taste never pervaded the recital’s other performances of Mozart’s B Flat Sonata (K. 570) and Chopin’s F Minor Fantaisie, Op. 49. The Mozart was especially good with judicious tempos and a warm tone from the mellow house piano. Mr. Atzinger played three cultivated ritards in the opening Allegro that demonstrated that he was not bound to a strict classical interpretation, and the following Adagio his control of gradations of sound and several novel “turn” figurations were superb. The Allegretto featured contrapuntal lines and spicy accented dissonances, understated but always telling.

The Chopin Fantaisie received a performance heavy on vocal statements, as the best Chopin always should. The famous heroic second theme was played with ardor and care, and the march sections at a fast clip. Changing gears, Mr. Atzinger played the Choral part with an unusual differentiation of voices, the main theme’s repeat quite fast and in a romantic gesture held the damper pedal lovingly before the three last phrases.

Leading to intermission was a Toccata from Canadian composer Pierre Jalbert, composed in 2001 and sounding like a required piano competition piece. But it was no less interesting for that, and though clamorous at times it had whiffs of the Ligeti Etudes. Mr. Atzinger’s command of left-hand block chords mixed with swirls of ringing right-hand notes was intoxicating.