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Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s Sonoma Overt...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
Chamber
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, perfor...
Symphony
AMERICAN CLASSICS SPARKLE UNDER KAHANE’S BATON
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Jeffrey Kahane, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s former conductor, returned to the Weill Hall podium on Saturday night, and the results were expectedly wonderful. The concert of American classics was by turns playful (Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”), emotional (Barber’s violin concerto) and triumphant (...
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...
RECITAL REVIEW
Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series / Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Laura Magnani, piano

Pianist Laura Magnani June 6

COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100.

The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a basketball playoff game on television and a special Bocce Ball tournament, but SLV Impresario Robert Hayden forged ahead and presented Marin-based artist Laura Magnani in a sparkling program of Chopin and Debussy.

Before beginning Chopin’s C Sharp Op. 26 Polonaise, Ms. Magnani talked at length about the composer’s relationship with his native Poland, and in the bold opening phrases of the extroverted Polonaise she did catch the flavor of the aristocratic dance. In the second bar was a stark missed note, and most would think that a dropped note so early would be unnerving for the performer. But it’s often quite the opposite, as every piano recital has playing on the key cracks, and it can be a relief to get the wrong note out of the way early. There were few over the rest of the recital, and the artist quickly established a distinctive and muscular sonority in nearly each composition.

Two Mazurkas followed (Op. 17, No. 4, and Op. 68, No. 2) and the plaintive Mazurka in A Major was lovely, with a beguiling pause at the end, and a good segue to Ms. Magnani’s playing of the rhythmically complex A Minor. She said in remarks that these Mazurkas were for Polish peasant dances, and her playing was indeed both atmospheric and sophisticated.

Two larger-scale Chopin works, the Fantasie-Impromptu and the G Minor Ballade, showcased the artist’s bright tone, tasteful ritards and consummate pedal control. Additionally, Ms. Magnani’s skips in both hands were accurate throughout the evening, and in the Ballade her technical command and interpretative power has markedly matured since a recital in Belvedere almost decade ago. Octave playing was fast and the accelerando prior to the second theme’s entrance was a new and sturdy interpretative touch. This Ballade performance told a story.

In additional extended remarks (on Debussy) the pianist underscored her Italian musical roots, and made exemplary connections to Debussy’s novel mastery of piano sonority. The two Arabesques (from 1888, at age 26) had the requisite color with the popular first in E not too fast, and the second (in G) showing a chaste staccato touch, humor and again those exact right-hand skips.

Debussy’s three Estampes (imprints) from 1903 received high-level readings with persuasive dynamic control. In Pagodes the bottom D and E flats were punctuated loudly, and in both this work and the Soirée dans Grenade Ms. Magnani’s repeated note phrases and cross-hand and close hand skips were virtuosic, and her vocal color captivating. The final Jardins sous la Pluie was played with commanding melodic and dynamic contrast, and with the stamina needed to establish the work’s excitement.

Expressive playing and stamina continued in the closing L’Isle Joyeuse, a popular Debussy piece where Ms. Magnani’s instrumental control produced animated excitement and brilliant sound in the flashing coda. Of course it brought down the house.

No encore was offered.