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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...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
RECITAL REVIEW
Green Music Center / Sunday, October 29, 2017
Alexi Kenney, violin; Renana Gutman, piano

Alexi Kenney and Renana Gutman Oct. 29

RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017

Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne Sophie Mutter and Lambert Orkis.

Alexi Kenney may change the all this, as he played a scintillating performance of the 1917 work in his Schroeder debut recital Oct. 29 with pianist Renana Gutman. Concluding the concert with a big Sonata that has had little popularity was perhaps chancy, but the performance the duo delivered had the requisite big sonorities and committed drive. Throughout the pianist needs a big left hand, and Ms. Gutman’s power was ample.

In three movements, the work opened with a plangent and dramatic moderato that had somber Romanticism and deft phrasing. Mr. Kenny’s formidable technique was never an issue, though several attacks weren’t precise. Ms. Gutman was an equal partner, never covering the violin line. The andante espressivo was played more aggressively than I have heard, but never lacked beauty and telling pedal point touches in the piano. The ascending phrase up to five big chords near the end was infatuating, and garnered the mystery of the simple theme that opens and closes the movement.

Things went well in the finale (passacaglia) with Ms. Gutman’s forceful playing nearly stealing the show from the violinist. As the pace increased piano scale playing became blurred, but the momentum easily carried through the quiet middle section (rose between thorns?) and a slight wavering of violin pitch.
Mr. Gutman’s accelerated octaves before the coda were thunderous, as was the final tremolo b natural chord. A monumental reading. Loud applause followed but no encore.

Mr. Kenney began the concert with a performance of Bach’s E Major Partita (BWV 1006), with small end-of-phrase retards in the preludio that I enjoyed, but surely bothering listeners craving Baroque authenticity. The tempo was brisk but suited the music, and his short trills and double stops were elegant. In the first menuet the artist intentionally blurred the sound for effect, and in the second he never dug deep into the strings, looking for a light sound with a light bow arm. In the concluding gigue he did dig deep, with more lower register sound, but the playing was not slow, though in places it sounded slow with every repeat taken.

Schubert’s wonderful and popular C Major Fantasy (D. 934) finished the first half. Here Ms. Gutman was unable to capture the “sound from no sound” beginning though she quickly found her footing and some of her best playing in the concert. However, Mr. Kenney perfectly gauged the long opening with zero volume moving to triple piano and upwards to the beginning of bits of dance (Hungarian? Czech?) and brooding drama. The opening theme in pizzicato was perfectly sculpted, as was the return of this now subtle march like theme that came following chaste rhythmic phrases and a histrionic climax.

A virtuosic surprise was Mr. Kenney’s traversal of the demanding solo of Esa-Pekka Solonen’s Lachen Verlernt. Much of the nine-minute score is in the high register, and here Mr. Kenney’s intonation was faultless and his slow descending dissonant phrases riveting. What could pass as a series of advanced violin studies was in his hands a tour de force of sonic glamour and where the brilliant effects were never tedious or unmusical. Especially convincing were the little growls and slides in the lower register. There are subtle references to the Paganini Caprices in this 2002 work, and the instrumental prowess demanded by the composer seeming no less than the Italian virtuoso of the 19th Century.

Ms. Gutman and Mr. Kenney also performed Crumb’s Four Nocturnes (Night Music II), written in the early 1960s, and requiring the pianist to strum, mute and delicately bang on the instrument’s strings. An audience member had the score in hand, a calligraphy marvel that could be of equal interest to the performed music.

Mr. Kenney played from score all through the concert, using an electronic tablet placed on the music stand, though he only sporadically looked at it.