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Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
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...
Recital
GLOVER'S ECLECTIC PROGRAMMING HIGHLIGHT'S CINNABAR RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
Daniel Glover is arguably the busiest virtuoso pianist in the San Francisco Bay area, but rarely is heard in North Bay concerts. So 90 local pianophiles were anxious to hear him Feb. 17 in Petaluma’s charming small Cinnabar Theater, and they were rewarded with an eclectic program of sometimes unfam...
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 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 Hall’s stage March 25 and didn’t 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. Hamelin’s 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 work’s complex harmonic structure. It was a powerful reading but never willful. In the marvelous March movement Mr. Hamelin’s pianism was convincing in its energy but less so in tonal beauty. But it’s 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. Hamelin’s 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 Lang’s 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 Bach’s keyboard Concerto in F. It was sensuously played, and a warm change from tempestuous pianistic brilliance of the glorious Ballades.