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Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago ďGolden EraĒ of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didnít play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuberís work to the publicís attention, and now it seems to be on almost every...
Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the seasonís final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopolís Community Church, as the performers...
Chamber
TRIO NAVARRO'S POPULAR FARE IN SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 08, 2018
Long time Classical Sonoma readers may recall many Trio Navarro concert reviews that lauded their virtuosity and interest in rarely played repertoire. The April 8 concert in Schroeder Hall before 85 chamber music fans featured sterling performances but had a mostly conservative menu of popular trio...
Recital
KENNER'S ALL POLISH RECITAL HAS PADEREWSKI RARITY
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, April 08, 2018
Kevin Kennerís April 8 recital at Dominican Universityís Angelico Hall had been advertised as all-Chopin, but he added a detour into another seminal Polish composer-pianist, Paderewski. Several of Mr. Kennerís teachers were Poles, he speaks Polish, and he navigated at the piano both composersí deman...
Symphony
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE VOICE AT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, April 08, 2018
In an April 8 Santa Rosa Symphony concert filled to the brim with instruments--electric violin, vibraphone, marimba, xylophone, glockenspiel, keyboard samplers, harps, piano and myriad drums, gongs and bells, to say nothing of winds, brass and strings--the instrument that came out on top was the hum...
Chamber
VOM FESTIVAL TRIO CHARMS WITH CHAMBER MIX, AND HUMMEL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, March 31, 2018
At the core of the group of Valley of the Moon Music Festival (VOM) musicians is an ensemble of trios and duos, and as a trio March 31 Festival founders cellist Tanya Tomkins and pianist Eric Zivian joined British violinist Monica Huggett for a chamber music concert in the Green Music Centerís Schro...
Choral and Vocal
GOOD FRIDAY REQUIEM FILLS INCARNATION
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 30, 2018
Maurice Duruflťís short and intense Requiem has been heard in Santa Rosaís Church of the Incarnation before, but the March 30 Good Friday performance was stripped down in the number of performers, combining Cantiamo Sonoma and the St. Cecilia Choir with musical underpinning from organist Robert Youn...
Symphony
HAMELIN'S HUSKY MOOD IN SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 25, 2018
Convention in piano recitals has the artist coming on stage and playing. Canadian pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin walked on Schroeder Hallís stage March 25 and didnít play for six minutes, chatting with the audience. A risk for some artists. Then most programs include a contemporary or rarely play...
Recital
VIRTUOSIC VARIATIONS IN MORGAN'S SCHROEDER ORGAN RECITAL
by Paul Blanchard
Sunday, March 18, 2018
Organist Robert Huw Morganís artistry spun through the web of early variation form in a Mar. 18 recital on Schroeder Hallís wonderful Brombaugh organ. Mr. Morgan, Stanford Universityís resident organist, performs a wide range of repertoire, but as he said in comments to the audience, he loves when h...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Green Music Center / Sunday, March 25, 2018
Charles Richard-Hamelin, piano

Charles Richard-Hamelin in Schroeder March 25 (JCM Photo)

HAMELIN'S HUSKY MOOD IN SCHROEDER RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 25, 2018

Convention in piano recitals has the artist coming on stage and playing. Canadian pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin walked on Schroeder Hallís stage March 25 and didnít play for six minutes, chatting with the audience. A risk for some artists. Then most programs include a contemporary or rarely played work (Ligeti, Anton Rubinstein, Alkan, Field). Mr. Hamelin programmed just conventional Schumann and Chopin. Another risk, and with easy comparisons with more established pianists than the 29-year old competition winner.

What was not risky was Mr. Hamelinís musical approach, as he was unconventional in a boisterous and dramatic mood during almost all of the Schumann Op. 18 Arabesque and C Major Fantasia, and the Four Chopin Ballades. He played the C Major Arabesque with the cantabile the 1839 work needs, and used the shift pedal often to color the sound and the two contrasting episodes.

In the famous Fantasia the long first movement unfolded in dramatic fashion, and Mr. Hamelin made it harmonically clear that the key never really resolves into C Major until the last page. Oddly he played three final soft chords where the score indicates only two. An occasional bass doubling again pointed to the workís complex harmonic structure. It was a powerful reading but never willful. In the marvelous March movement Mr. Hamelinís pianism was convincing in its energy but less so in tonal beauty. But itís that kind of movement, and he three times doubled left-hand chords for potent interest, the last before the legendary contrary-motion skips in both hands (which he nailed without apparent fear).

Lovely modulations were highlighted in the dreamy finale, played more rapidly than conventionally, and the small climaxes were carefully shaped. The second chorale theme had beauty, with balanced chords before the last long section began. The three pianissimo chords that end the piece were masterfully even and at soft volume heard to the back of the Hall.

Following intermission Mr. Hamelin again spoke at length to the audience of 150, sometimes indistinctly though using a microphone, and began with the ever-popular Chopin G Minor Ballade, Op. 23. There was a natural rise and fall to the phrasing and general sonic muscle, though the right hand octaves in the repetition of the second theme were played too fast for clarity. This Ballade has a narrative backbone that Mr. Hamelin set out well. Big boned playing continued in the F Major Ballade, a piece where cascades of sonorities were effectively delivered, and the carnage of the final measures led into a quiet and simple ending. Momentum from the previous two Ballades carried over to the A Flat, the most congenial of the four, and was a little out of place. Mr. Hamelin used a lot of damper pedal and pushed the tempo. He is not a colorist and here energy tempted lyricism.

The recital ended with the F Minor Ballade, with the Schumann Fantasia one of the peaks of 19th-Century piano literature, and when played by a seasoned virtuoso it is a cosmos of emotions in fewer than ten minutes. Mr. Hamelinís conception this afternoon was conventional but never routine, and there was abundant power and voice leading. The tenor section was taken slowly. Before the tumultuous coda the pianist avoided extending the bottom C Major Chord with pedal (the Slavic tradition) prior to the five soft anticipatory chords, and signaled the rushed drive to the finish with impressive fury and clarion speed. On balance it was the best local set of Chopin Ballades since Lang Langís Weill Hall 2013 opening concert, and the more recent Nancy Lee Harper traversal for Concerts Grand.

One encore was offered, a transcription (Wilhelm Kempff?) from Bachís keyboard Concerto in F. It was sensuously played, and a warm change from tempestuous pianistic brilliance of the glorious Ballades.