Terry McNeill has produced piano recitals for 14 seasons in Mendocino, Sonoma, Napa and Marin Counties for the Concerts Grand series, and is an independent researcher on the life and art of pianists Josef Hofmann, Anton Rubinstein and Jorge Bolet. He resides in Santa Rosa, CA, and is an editor and staff music critic for Classical Sonoma.
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 performing roles, were Fauré’s Cello Sonata No. 1, played vividly by Sonja Myklebust with pianist Abbie Gabrielson; soprano Christa Durand’s two Barber songs (with pianist Mary Beard); and pianist... more
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 approach to Mozart’s B Minor Adagio (K. 540) and the K. 570 B-Flat Major Sonata, and to Bach’s Goldberg Variations that comprised the second half. Current international Mozartians (Andras Sch... more
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 Lincoln played an abbreviated program of four works, beginning with a short “Silver Dagger”, composed for them by Stacy Garrop. Pianist Marta Asnavoorian’s tapping the strings from above started... more
When the Berlin-based ATOS Piano Trio entered the cramped Occidental Performing Arts stage Nov. 3, the audience of 100 anticipated familiar works in the announced all-Russian program. What they got was a selection of rarely-plays trios, with a gamut of emotions.
Then one-movement Rachmaninoff G Minor Trio, Op. Post, opened the music and the Trio caught the surging Romantic themes, first warmly set out by cellist Stefan Heinemeyer. Attacks were clean throughout, though the sub-professi... more
Just two works were on the opening program of the Marin Symphony’s 67th season Oct. 28, Tchaikovsky’s iconic D Major Violin Concerto, and Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony.
Before a full house in the Marin Center Auditorium conductor Alasdair Neale set a judicious opening tempo in the brief orchestra introduction of the Tchaikovsky, setting the stage for the entry of few cadenza-like bars from soloist Dylana Jenson’s broadly lyrical main theme. There are many ways to interpret this 1878 wo... more
In somewhat of a surprise a sold out Schroeder Hall audience greeted pianist Steven Lin Oct. 21 in his local debut recital. Why a surprise? Because Mr. Lin was pretty much unknown in Northern California, and Schroeder is rarely, very rarely sold out for a single instrumentalist.
But no matter, and the young Curtis Institute-trained artist played a conventional but thoroughly exciting concert that drew two standing ovations. He began with a piece that was in every amateur and professio... more
Mostly known as a concert producer and indefatigable promoter of Sonoma County music, pianist Judy Walker stepped into the soloist’s role Sept. 23 in a sold out recital for the Concerts Grand House recitals series.
Two Scarlatti Sonatas, in D Minor (K. 213) and D Major (K. 29), began the hour-long event, and she played the first slowly with a lingering character, and the presto D Major with crisp attention to flamenco guitar mood and fast repeated notes in alternating hands. Th... more
Fresh from a triumphant tour in Latin America the Sonoma County Philharmonic opened its 20th season Sept. 22 in a celebratory concert in the Santa Rosa High School Auditorium.
Keeping to the evening’s orchestra history and past performance, conductor emeritus Gabriel Sakakeeny, who led the So Co Phil in a tour of China, was at the podium to direct one of his own works, The Lion and The Rose, which was composed in 1987 and premiered in 2008 in a concert in Santa Rosa’s Wells Fargo Center... more
Anastasia Dedik returned Sept. 17 to the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series in a recital that featured three familiar virtuoso works in potent interpretations.
Chopin’s G Minor Ballade hasn’t been heard in Sonoma County public concerts since a long-ago Earl Wild performance, and Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata with Valentina Lisitsa was a distant memory from 2010, both in Newman Auditorium. The same for the warhorse B Flat Scherzo of Chopin, so it was good to hear music that is... more
Before a full house at the Occidental Performing Arts Center Sept. 9 the cello-piano Duo West, playing from score throughout, presented a recital that on paper looked stimulating and thoughtful.
Beginning with MacDowell’s To A Wild Rose (from Woodland Sketches, Op. 51), the transcription by an unannounced arranger made little impact and probably was something novel to most of the audience. An odd choice not explained, but the Fauré D Minor Sonata (Op. 109) that followed was explained b... more
Two thirds of the way through a stimulating 22-concert season the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series Sept. 5 presented two splendid cello sonatas before 110 people in the Village’s Montgomery auditorium.
A duo for more than a decade, East Bay musicians cellist Monica Scott and pianist Hadley McCarroll began with Shostakovich’s D Minor Sonata, Op. 40, in a performance that captured the composer’s contrasts of contemplation and drama. Playing from score, as they did throughout, th... more
Long anticipated events, such as a great sporting game, gourmet feast, holiday trip or a concert, occasionally fall way short of expectations. The results don’t measure to expectations. With the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Costa Rica concert June 19, the performance exceeded any heated or tenuous prospects. They hit the proverbial home run in a convincing gala performance in the capitol San José’s historic Teatro Nacionál on the third day of an epic week-long Orchestra tour.
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns.
Conductor Norman Gamboa programmed works that have partly been on past Orchestra concerts in Sonoma County, including Frank La Rocca’s Crossing the Rubicon, the Symphonic Picture from Porgy and Bess, and the Elgar Cell... more
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 ... more
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s resident Navarro Trio gave a compelling reading of the work from 1827.
Surprisingly, the differences were greater than the similarities. The estimable Navarro uses a modern concert grand and the vi... more
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed.
Avec l’orgue (with organ) was the concert’s title, and since Weill Hall has no resident organ, an explanation is necessary. There was once a plan to have the Schroeder Hall organ’s sound connect... more
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now they seem to be on almost every contemporary piano recital.
Louis Lortie’s April 21 Weill Hall recital featured Schubert’s 38-minute G Major Fantasy Sonata, D. 894, for the entire first half. Mr. Lortie gave the work a s... more
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 season’s final concert of the 86th season.
In a programming novelty the same pianist, Cecile Licad, played in each of the season’s three concerts, and in this afternoon’s concert the St. Saëns G Minor Concerto, Op. 22, was a featured work. The compo... more
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 Sebastopol’s Community Church, as the performers were mostly new to North Coast, and the program was mostly all arcane transcriptions. It was the final event in RAC’s 38th season.
Cellist Boris Andrionov has appeared at a previous RAC pro... more
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 trios. Well, with three masterpieces in the trio literature, one can’t quibble.
Rachmaninoff’s early G Minor Trio (“Elégiac”) that began the second half was the only work could be said to be unc... more
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 Center’s Schroeder Hall.
The concert was the second in a series, and titled “The Little Orchestra.” As in past performances, a piano from the abbreviated period of the programmed music (1788-1802) was use... more
Maurice Duruflé’s short and intense Requiem has been heard in Santa Rosa’s 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 Young.
Before a packed Incarnation audience Carol Menke directed the 43-minute performance that was the composer’s 1948 transcription from the original versions that use an orchestra of various s... more
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-yea... more
Sonoma County Philharmonic concerts are continually artistically successful but on the Santa Rosa High School’s stage the orchestra rarely numbers above 40, and in the 900-seat hall audiences can be scant. Violinists can be in short supply.
An opposite scene occurred at the March 17/18 concert set where the stage was crammed with the full orchestra and two choirs, the Santa Rosa Symphonic Chorus and the California Redwood Chorale (Robert Hazelrigg, director). It looked like nearly 60 s... more
Pianist Anastasia Dedik has been an occasional North Coast visitor, playing with her Trio in Ukiah, and in recitals in Sonoma and with the Spring Lake Village series. She returned March 12 to Spring Lake (a retirement community, with Impresario Robert Hayden) in an abbreviated recital before a packed Montgomery Center Hall of 200 attentive seniors.
Beginning with three Bach works, the pianist was in a lively mood and Petri’s popular “Sheep May Safely Graze” transcription had steady rhy... more
German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter returned to Weill Hall March 2 in a recital curiously different than her appearance on the same stage several years ago, and also dissimilar to a recent San Francisco concert with a heroic Respighi Sonata performance.
On a rainy night before 700 fans Ms. Mutter and her wonderful decades-long pianist Lambert Orkis chose a program that was inquisitive but also inconclusive. The latter came at the beginning of each half, all Brahms, and began the short ... more
Greatness in a single musical composition carried the day Feb. 25 when the Takács String Quartet played Beethoven in Weill Hall.
Sweeping aside two first half pieces, the Takács tackled Beethoven’s penultimate Quartet, the monumental C-Sharp Minor, Op. 131, written in 1826. From the first notes (adagio, and fugue) from violinist Edward Dusinberre it was clear that a magisterial experience would unfold. In six movements, played without break, a set of curiously formed vari... more
Pianist Nancy Lee Harper made an elegant North Coast debut Feb. 24 in the Concerts Grand House Recitals series in a private Santa Rosa home.
Ms. Harper, for decades a performer and teacher in Portugal, has recently relocated to Northern California, played an all-Chopin recital that was comprehensive in repertoire and at many places thrilling. She began with an Op. Posthumous Waltz, then the Op. 43 Tarantelle, and closing the first part was the Op. 61 Polonaise-Fantasie.
Two weeks does make a hefty difference. Feb. 3 saw the diva Renée Fleming beguile a full Weill Hall house in a mix of Brahms, Broadway show songs and Dvorak chestnuts. It was a gala event with couture gowns and colorful extra-musical communication between singer and her rapt audience.
Dorothea Röschmann’s Feb. 18 recital from the same stage was sharply different, though the respective pianists (Helmut Höll and Malcolm Martineau) were uniformly excellent. The German soprano said not a w... more
North Coast chamber music fans have the luxury of two fine resident piano trios, with the frequently performing Trio Navarro at Sonoma State, and the Tilden Trio at San Rafael’s Dominican University. The Tilden plays less often, but their Feb. 11 performance brought several hundred to Angelico Hall to hear a sterling program.
A novelty opened the concert, Hummel’s E-Flat Major Trio, Op. 93, and it was probably a local premiere. There were flashes of his contemporary Beethoven in the ex... more
Ching-Yun Hu made a return Music at Oakmont appearance Feb. 8 in Berger Auditorium, reprising a recital she made in the same hall four years ago. Many of the recital’s trappings were the same, but the music Ms. Hu chose to play was decidedly different.
All afternoon the pianist was in an aggressive and speedy mood, beginning with the complete Rachmaninoff Etudes Tableaux, Op. 39. These nine works from 1917 are far removed from the more popular studies from Op. 23 and 32, and mostly po... more
Weill hall has mounted several exceptional piano recitals, with Garrick Ohlsson’s titanic Liszt concert, and of course Lang Lang’s two insouciant but also compelling performances topping the list since 2013.
But arguably the virtuoso violinists have on balance been more impressive, and thoughts go back to memorable nights from Gil Shaham’s six Bach works, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Christian Tetzlaff, Yu-Chien Tsong, David McCarroll, Alexei Kenny, Benjamin Bielman, Caroline Goulding, Vadim R... more
Though not new to Sonoma County, the Valley of the Moon Music Festival (VOM) concerts are relatively recent in the Green Music Center’s Schroeder Hall. So the first of three spring concerts Jan. 27 provided a picture of what’s in the repertoire leading up to their Festival this summer at Sonoma’s Hanna Center.
Cellist and VOM cofounder Tanya Tomkins opened the concert with remarks to the audience about 19th century musical romanticism as it centered on the world of Robert Schumann. The... more
Turning again away from conventional repertoire, the Sonoma County Philharmonic programmed Jan. 27 three works in what were local debut performances in Santa Rosa High School’s Performing Arts Center.
Nielsen’s Fourth Symphony, Op. 29, called “Inextinguishable,” closed the program with an extravaganza of orchestral color and virtuosic playing. Led with careful pacing by conductor Norman Gamboa, the work seemed shorter than its 36-minute duration, always a sign of a compelling conductor... more
The just closing 2017 year was a calamity for many, but locally in music there were joys galore, and it was fitting Dec. 30 have the balm of two Bach’s violin sonatas in a private Guerneville home recital hosted by the eminent musician Sonia Tubridy.
Violinist Richard Heinberg joined Ms. Tubridy in a program that began with the C Minor Sonata, BWV 1017. Both the four-movements Sonatas featured judicious tempos and made minimal reference to current Baroque music practices of minimal vib... more
The mid-December concert season seems for jaded reviewers to invariably include a Messiah performance, and perhaps a Messiah in a long string of similar and mundane performances. This was decidedly not the case when San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque mounted Handel’s eminent three-part 1742 Oratorio Dec. 10.
Before a Weill Hall audience of 1,000 conductor Nicholas McGegan fashioned an historically accurate and balanced Messiah reading that gave equal weight to the 24-personal chorus,... more
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High School. The first of the set is reviewed here.
The Belgian composer’s only Symphony is difficult structurally to perform, though underpinned by the recurring them in each of the three moveme... more
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart.
Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapuntal clarity was in the forefront of their performance of Mozart’s E-Flat Major Quartet, K. 428. All of Mr. Tetzlaff’s trademarks were on display here: small ritards in the high register that ... more
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented.
With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticity are needed, and with Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and Charpentier’s Actéon the Les Artes Florissants ensemble from Caen, France, were an ideal match. Before an audience of 400 the seven singers... more
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine orchestra. On this day it was the legendary Mariinsky Orchestra from St. Petersburg, under the baton of international star Valery Gergiev. Qualms were put to rest at the outset.
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoing a previously programmed another local Tchaikovsky Fourth.
So it was no surprise that the monumental 1878 Fourth was the capstone of the Marin Symphony’s back-to-back concerts Oct. 29 and 3... more
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 Gutm... more
A concert with curious repertoire and splashy orchestral color launched the 19th season of the Sonoma County Philharmonic Sept. 30 in Santa Rosa High School’s Auditorium.
Why curious? Conductor Norman Gamboa paired the ever-popular Dvorak and his rarely heard 1891 trilogy In Nature’s Realm, with the uncommonly heard first Symphony of Tchaikovsky. The G Minor Major Symphony doesn’t have quite the emotional impact and tight construction of the iconic Fourth, Fifth and Sixth symphonies, ... more
A standard component of house concerts often involve listeners hearing the music but also smelling the lasagna and seeing the champagne in the adjacent kitchen. But it was not the case Sept. 3 at Sandra Shen’s Concerts Grand House Recital performance, as her riveting piano playing enthralled the small audience in an East Santa Rosa home.
The South Bay-based artist has played in Santa Rosa before, at the Spring Lake Village series produced by Robert Hayden, but this was Ms. Shen’s local... more
In the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival’s penultimate concert July 30 the perennial issue of period and modern instruments was apparent. But only in the concluding Mendelssohn Trio, as the performances in the two first half works easily avoided instrumental comparisons.
Clara Schumann’s three bucolic Op. 22 Romances for Violin were beautifully played by Cynthia Freivogal and pianist Jennifer Lee, with the highlight the opening heart-on-sleeve andante. This was a romant... more
One of the purposes of summer music festivals is to present unfamiliar music in an attractive and often small audience setting. The Valley of the Moon Music Festival delightfully met these requirements July 22 and 23 with two concerts in the small hall at Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. Classical Sonoma attended the first concert.
Following lengthy introductory comments by pianist Eric Zivian, the artist played Bach’s first Prelude from the Well Tempered Clavier, and followed with Chopin’... more
Modern classical piano recitals are in two parts, with longer and perhaps more profound music proceeding perhaps shorter and usually stimulating lighter fare. In John Novacek’s July 13 Mendocino Music Festival recital the best playing came unexpectedly in the eight abbreviated works comprising the second half.
After intermission the Los Angeles-based artist began by choosing two of Shostakovich’s great Op. 87 Preludes and Fugues, the inaugural one from the set of 24 (in C Major) and th... more
It’s not really a secret, but Sonoma County’s best chamber music series is one without much notoriety or publicity. The concerts at Santa Rosa’s Spring Lake Village programs are only for residents and a few invited guests. Impresario Robert Hayden years ago honed his producer skills as founder of the well-known Music at Oakmont Series, and now he often mounts two Spring Lake Village concerts a month in an intimate setting with excellent acoustics. No other North Coast music productions can eq... more
Violinist Benjamin Beilman’s ravishing Mozart performance at last summer’s Weill Hall ChamberFest finale lured an enthusiastic crowd to Schroeder Hall May 14 to hear if his secure virtuosity was up to a program of demanding sonatas. He did not disappoint.
With the powerful pianist Orion Weiss in the mix the Janácek and Bartok No. 2 Sonatas were the core of a demanding afternoon, with the former perhaps the most memorable. Written in 1922 with echoes of the composer’s two string quartet... more
A composer’s first symphony rarely gives a clear indication of what beautiful complexities will follow over the years. Early Mozart and Tchaikovsky are examples, and the big exceptions to this axiom are the “firsts” of Beethoven, Shostakovich and Mahler.
Tackling Mahler ‘s D Major Symphony (No. 1,“Titan”) April 8 was the intrepid Sonoma County Philharmonic, playing before an audience of 300 in the Santa Rosa High School Hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa took moderate tempos throughout, ai... more
Piano Competition winners are in ample supply, and it’s often a hit and miss proposition as to their sterling interpretative qualities. However, the quadrennial Van Cliburn Competition in Ft. Worth has continually produced top-level artists, and the 2009 winner Haochen Zhang proved a formidable performer in his March 19 recital in Schroeder Hall.
The pianist began a demanding concert with two big Schumann works of opposite emotional content. The Op. 15 Kinderszenen came first and rec... more
Piano recitals since the beginning of the genre open with finger pieces - Scarlatti or Soler Sonatas, Bach, a Mendelssohn Prelude and Fugue or perhaps Mozart or Haydn. Sarah Daneshpour’s March 12 opening work at the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society series abruptly avoided the norm with the 10-minute Boulez “Incises,” written the 1990s. Clearly it wasn’t going to be a conventional recital played routinely or timidly. Recitals don’t begin with Boulez.
Israeli pianist Einav Yarden has been a frequent Sonoma County visitor, playing private recitals for Spring Lake Village and Concerts Grand, and twice performing for Music at Oakmont.
The Berlin-based artist returned to Oakmont’s Berger Auditorium March 9 with a program that was neither for connoisseurs nor for popular taste, but was full of rarely-played music from always-played composers. Somehow Beethoven’s magisterial A-Flat Major Sonata managed to get into the mix.
A tiny Schroeder Hall audience heard a flawless recital Feb. 26 by Yu-Chien Tseng, arguably the best recent local violin recital since Gil Shaham’s transversal of the complete Bach Suites in Weill and Frank Almond’s Oakmont recital in 2015.
Muscular playing was the afternoon’s norm, and with pianist Chang-Yong Shin Mr. Tseng dived headlong into Mozart’s lovely B-Flat Major Sonata, K. 454. Contrapuntal lines were lucid, as were Mr. Shin’s scale passages in the hall’s clear acoustics. ... more
Chamber music concerts featuring one composer can be tricky, but the Han/Setzer/Finckel trio made a Feb. 19 Weill Hall audience of 500 hear and to a degree see the boundless creativity of Beethoven.
The G Major Trio, Op. 1, No. 2, opened the afternoon’s Beethoven odyssey and one wonders why it is the least played of the early trios. Out of the shadows of Haydn’s trios, the G Major sparkled under joyous playing and brisk tempos, especially appropriate to the music.
Christian Tetzlaff’s Feb. 18 violin recital rolled along with lively and fresh readings of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert when the specter of Bartok’s granitic Second Sonata intervened. The sonic shock to the audience of 250 in Weill was palpable.
Composed in 1923 the 20-minute two-movement work is an insistent and often meandering Sonata that demands a lot from the listener, but even more so from a virtuoso executant. Though there are references to the composer’s Piano Sonata of thre... more
Longevity has its place in classical music. Composers and especially conductors live a long time, and venerable piano trios can linger for years. One can recall the great Cortot-Thibaud-Casals staying on the international scene for decades, and more recently Stern-Istomin-Rose, Oistrakh-Oborin-Knushevitsky and the Beaux Arts.
A Weill Hall audience of 600 welcomed Jan. 29 the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio on their 40th Anniversary tour, and they began quickly with Beethoven’s “Gasse... more
Sonoma County Philharmonic’s long history of featuring soloists from the neighborhood struck gold again Jan. 28 with a ravishing Mozart Clarinet Concerto performance with soloist Roy Zajac.
Before an audience of 300 the Santa Rosa High School hall the A Major Concerto (K. 626) unfolded gracefully with Mr. Zajac’s virtuosity everywhere in evidence. He played the work with the Santa Rosa Symphony several years ago, and the piece was prominent during last summer’s ChamberFest in Weill, wit... more
Each half of pianist Wei Luo’s Schroeder Hall recital Jan. 22 contained beguiling interpretations and consummate technical command of Shostakovich and Albeniz works, but each half finished with less than exalted playing.
Two of Shostakovich’s Op. 87 Preludes and Fugues opened the recital, from the wonderful set of 24 that are played often, and by such disparate artists as jazz pianist Keith Jarrett and the Russian Tatiana Nikolayeva (the dedicatee).
A standing room audience warmly greeted pianist Carolyn Steinbuck Jan. 15 in the season’s second Ft. Bragg Center For the Arts concert in Mendocino’s plebian Preston Hall.
Ms. Steinbuck, to be joined in the program’s second half by clarinetist Eric Kritz and cellist Marcia Sloane, programmed Schubert’s big B-Flat Major Sonata, D. 960. Schubert’s piano music is seemingly now on every recital program, but this is a recent development, and the first recording of a Schubert Sonata was as ... more
New England-based cellist Edward Arron played an encore recital Jan. 12 at Music at Oakmont’s Berger Auditorium that was a in almost every way a success and surely an audience delight.
Beginning with Bach’s G Major Sonata gamba the cellist and pianist Jeewon Park played the work that rolls along without a great deal of contrast or even excitement. Here the string vibrato is minimal and Mr. Arron underscored long held notes prior to the two Allegro movements, and juxtaposing plai... more
A rainy winter Weill Hall audience of 800 heard the Santa Rosa Symphony Jan. 7 in an eclectic program of four composers including a provocative harp concerto. The music was preceded by manifold stage announcements and somber recognition of SRS musicians that had recently died.
A rollicking performance of Rossini’s ‘Thieving Magpie” overture was a splendid opener, played at a quick tempo and spotlighting snare drum and dramatic percussion effects. All evening an eight-musician percussio... more
SSU’s resident Trio Navarro has a long history of presenting diverse programs in the piano trio format, with occasional out-of-area artists joining the mix. This familiar configuration was altered in an Oct. 23 Schroeder Hall concert with the deletion of the violin part and the addition of two sterling local wind players.
The “newbies” jumped right in with pianist Marilyn Thompson in a transcription of Fauré’s six-part Dolly Suite, Op. 56. In the opening “Berceuse” the flute (Kathleen... more
A touring virtuoso’s reputation often precedes him or her, and usually that’s a good thing. The reputation of a Renée Fleming or a Yo Yo Ma can guarantee a sold out hall, and possibly a great concert. But not always, and so there was some concern at Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s Oct. 23 Weill recital that he would very well be another in a long line of fleet and heavy-handed Slavic pianists. And so it was mostly to be.
Curiously the program’s first item, Beethoven’s autumnal A-Flat... more
New York’s Trio Valtorna came to Music at Oakmont’s Berger Auditorium stage Oct. 20 with three disparate works, and in two of them instrumental sonic continuity was not a main goal.
But it was in the second half’s seminal piece, Brahms’ E-Flat Major Trio (Op. 40) for horn, violin and piano, that brought the audience of 150 and violinist Ida Kavafian, hornist David Jolley and pianist Gilles Yonsattel most happily together. The opening Andante was played with special emphasis on t... more
Itzhak Perlman has fashioned a career that encompasses more than virtuoso violin performance, and includes teaching, narrating musical documentaries, score editing, humanitarian projects, charity events and an often an easy “ah shucks” demeanor that is always beguiling.
With pianist Rohan de Silva Oct. 20 in Weill Mr. Perlman programed just four works, but a balanced four that delighted a full house in Weill that included 70 stage seats. I don’t recall recital stage seats since Lang La... more
Seasoned listeners for Beethoven’s symphonies and concertos know that interpretations can follow contemporary fashion, from the heroic and sonorous grand manner readings of the late 19th and early 20th centuries to the architectural approach after WW II, and even conductor Roger Norrington’s recent sleek and fast renderings.
In Weill Hall on Oct. 15, conductor Nicholas McGegan fashioned persuasive readings of Beethoven's Sixth Symphony and third Piano Concerto with his Philharmonia Ba... more
When driving into Guerneville Sept. 9 for the Amaryllis Trio’s house concert, a massive backlog of cars presaged a jammed musical afternoon. But for the cognoscenti the Trio’s music upstaged the big jazz festival crowds, and rewarded the 25 assembled in Sonia’s Tubridy’s charming hillside home with music of Beethoven, Lalo, Mendelssohn and Haydn.
It was a benefit for the River Choir, directed for many years by Ms. Tubridy.
Dramatic highlights included the Beethoven G Major Tri... more
In the penultimate concert July 30 of the Valley of the Moon Music Festival’s second season, the compositions of Schubert. Rossini and Beethoven were featured in a program titled "Star Power in the 19th Century." Iron Horse Vineyards provided the reception’s wines.
Classical Sonoma was unable to review this concert.... more
PianoSonoma’s second season in SSU’s Schroeder Hall began July 26 with a mixed program under the series appellation “Vino & Vibrato.” The set of student workshops and concerts, headed by Juilliard School pianists Jessica and Michael Shinn, puts artists in residence in close contact with Sonoma County adult musicians for two weeks each summer.
Titled a “Love Triangle” (Clara and Robert Schumann with Brahms), Clara Schumann’s Three Romances for Violin and Piano, Op. 22, had a shaky openi... more
Every summer music festival has a unique character, and the Valley of the Moon Music Festival in Sonoma has the singular character of stressing period instruments that sound well for mostly period repertoire.
In the Festival’s opening concert July 17 this was best in evidence for two Beethoven works, the “Kakadu” Piano Trio and the seven cello variations based on a theme from Mozart’s opera “The Magic Flute.” Eric Zivian, Northern California’s premier fortepianist, brought two of his ... more
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 Interme... more
Mozart’s Opera “Abduction from the Seraglio” has a long reputation as being tough for singers, and it was with some trepidation that I entered the Mendocino Music Festival’s massive white tent July 15 to hear and see the new production from the 30th season. Not to Worry.
Conducted by Festival Artistic Director Allan Pollack, the three-act work from 1782 was staged with minimal sets and a small cast of six. As in past MMF operas the orchestra was placed behind the sets, and the tent’s ... more
SSU’s ChamberFest concluded its second season June 26 with what was predicted to be a capstone concert, the last in a sterling series of seven devoted to Mozart, Schubert and Mendelssohn. And the all-Mozart concert in Weill Hall came close to being the most memorable of all, but not quite.
Before an appreciative audience of 1,000 and a large compliment of Green Music Center benefactors and CSU officials, two works comprised the first half and were the afternoon’s triumphs. David Shifr... more
Though having just two acts, Mozart’s Opera “The Magic Flute” encompasses a jumbled fairy tale plot with complicated staging and myriad performers in demanding vocal roles. Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater took up the arduous challenge of this 1791 work, among Mozart’s last, in a series of performances that opened on the June 10 weekend.
Even with intricate staging, an opera’s success usually rides on achieving a glorious performance of the score and vocal lines, and here Mozart’s composit... more
California has long been a big part of Midori Goto’s career, and she now teaches and tours from the USC campus in Los Angeles. After never performing in Sonoma County, the violinist’s area debut April 23 in Weill was a moderate success before an audience of 800 that included a large sprinkling of string players and local musicians.
The centerpiece of the physically diminutive virtuoso’s program were the Schubert C Major Fantasie (D. 934) and the great first Brahms Sonata in G Major, Op... more
Two program staples for the Sonoma County Philharmonic have been works of a Latin flavor, and spotlighting local soloists. Conductor Norman Gamboa has mounted intriguing Central American, Mexican and Spanish works for years, and flutist Kathleen Lane Reynolds, pianists Alice Zhu Lauren Xie, and trombonist Bruce Chrisp have recently been featured.
So it was no surprise at the April 9 concert in Santa Rosa High School that these worthwhile trends continued, with pianist Marilyn Thompson ... more
Jeffery Kahane spreads his musical largess widely. Since leaving a Sonoma County residence for Colorado the pianist has returned often for performances, the most recent the wildly successful ChamberFest series at the Green Music Center last summer.
April 10 found him again in Sonoma County, this time in recital before one of the largest attendances ever in Oakmont’s Berger Auditorium. It was a gala 25th Anniversary occasion for Music at Oakmont, and the artist mounted a probing perfor... more
Current fashion in orchestra season marketing showcases themes, and it’s de rigueur now, from the fledgling Sonoma County Philharmonic to the august San Francisco Symphony. Some of these themes are inane, but the Santa Rosa Symphony’s set of three concerts beginning April 2, with the event title “Rhythmic Vitality,” was singularly appropriate.
In the April 4 Weill Hall concert Britten’s Cello Symphony (Op. 68) and Falla’s complete music from the ballet “The Three Cornered Hat” ... more
There is a lot to like in John Rutter’s Requiem. Composed in 1985, it’s arguably the most performed large choral work of recent times, and it was a labor of love for choral director Carol Menke’s musicians in a memorable Good Friday concert in Santa Rosa’s Church of the Incarnation.
Splendid Requiems seem perfectly suited to Incarnation, and I recall recent Duruflé and Cherubini versions, and another Rutter directed by effervescent Ms. Menke three years ago. The March 25 concert befor... more
European orchestras on an American tour face a pesky single concert program decision – popular or provocative repertoire? The Polish Baltic Philharmonic landed squarely March 12 on the first option, a conventional all-Beethoven afternoon.
A Marin Center audience of 900 in San Rafael heard the 55 musicians from Warsaw in the concert’s opening Egmont Overture, Op. 84. It was a performance that caught the somber drama of the nine-minute work, and drama was the operative word for the enti... more
Chicago’s Lincoln Trio returned for a fifth time to Oakmont’s Berger Auditorium Concert Series Mar. 10 with a challenging and uncommon program that began with Rebecca Clarke’s Trio from 1921.
Starting a concert with this formidable work seemed risky, not because of the Oakmont audience but simply for the demands of the music, often acerbic involving a central powerful and knotty idea in all three movements. The Lincoln jumped into the fray with an opening movement and captured the mi... more
Parting can be such sweet sorrow, but better than either was the Cypress String Quartet’s farewell North Bay concert Feb. 28 in Schroeder. The group will disband in June in their San Francisco hometown.
Violinist Tom Stone’s remarks to the audience of 175 about Haydn set the stage for sure-footed performance of the C Major Quartet, Op. 76, No. 3. Schroeder’s acoustics seemed to favor cellist Jennifer Kloetzel’s sound, even the drone effects, but throughout the opening Allegro a... more
New York-based pianist Joel Fan hasn’t been a stranger to Sonoma County, having played in both the Concerts Grand and Music at Oakmont venues. February 11 he returned to Oakmont’s Berger Auditorium in an eclectic and often electric recital before 200.
Beginning with Ginastera’s first Sonata Op. 22, Mr. Fan gave the popular work from 1952 a pulsating reading that stressed the contrasting textures and meters. In the Presto double octaves didn’t fail him, and there was palpable my... more
Known for its novel programming, the Sonoma County Philharmonic has frequently engaged local soloists, with flutist Kathleen Reynolds and pianists Lauren Xie and Marilyn Thompson coming quickly to mind. In their Jan. 23 concert, featuring German composers, conductor Norman Gamboa united a rare mid 19th mini concerto for trombone with another Sonoma County soloist, Bruce Chrisp.
Playing the Ferdinand David Op. 4 Concertino, Mr. Chrisp gave the 1841 piece a convincing performance without ... more
In addition his brilliant pianism, Marc-André Hamelin has built a substantial international career by embracing unconventional repertoire and innovative transcriptions. Who else plays Catoire, Hofmann, Chopin-Godowsky, Dukas, Medtner and…Hamelin?
So the Canadian’s Jan. 22 Weill Hall recital was a surprise with the first and last works being popular Mozart and Schubert Sonatas. But they were great Sonatas, especially the opening Mozart D Major work (K. 576) that was played with easy gr... more
Audience members in Weill Jan. 16 that expecting a balanced, albeit conservative chamber music evening received a slight surprise with a scintillating Schubert Trio that upstaged two otherwise splendid works.
Schubert a surprise? In the hands of violinist Joseph Swenson, cellist Carter Brey and ensemble leader Jeffrey Kahane the E-Flat Trio (Op. 100) in 39 minutes never seemed long, though all repeats were honored. Musicians refer to the composer’s “heavenly length” and this performan... more
Program design for a piano recital is most often a decision to perform a few big sonatas and variations, sometimes by one composer, or a smorgasbord of shorter works. Sophia Sun chose mostly the latter in her local debut recital Jan. 10 before 150 in SRJC’s Newman Auditorium.
Sponsored by the Sonoma County branch of California Music Teachers Association, the hall was sprinkled with piano teachers and students, and Ms. Sun began with the big Bach Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue (S. 903). I... more
Hearing a symphony’s inaugural concert is a special event, and the Sonoma State Symphony Orchestra Dec. 11 launched what should be a prosperous musical life with a Weill Hall concert. The University Music Department has had permanent chamber, band and jazz ensembles, but never a flesh-in-the-blood orchestra. Now they do.
On paper Composer John Corigliano’s "Voyage" seemed a unique opening, but the eight-minute version for strings passed without much notice or interest. It’s reminisc... more
Scintillating string playing has always been a feature of the Music at Oakmont concerts, but Dec. 10’s recital by violinist Frank Almond and pianist William Wolfram was exceptionally virtuosic and musically convincing.
The cornerstone of the performance came in the second half with a brawny reading of a titular work in the violin repertoire, Beethoven’s dramatic A Major Sonata, Op. 47 (Kreutzer). Playing without score, as he did the entire recital, Mr. Almond managed the fast tempo b... more
Mounting a production of the Mozart D Minor Requiem (K. 626) poses difficulties absent from the usual 50-plus minute performance time. Historical questions abound concerning authorship, placement of musical sections and even the murky commissioning process.
Director Bob Worth moved to solve these difficulties in a Nov. 20 concert in Sonoma’s St. Andrew Presbyterian Church by a unique trifecta. First he conducted the Sonoma Bach Choir and Live Oak Baroque Orchestra in short snippets il... more
One often hears of yet another new fiery Russian pianist, and the mental picture is of a 16-year old with octaves and temperament to burn. But older Russian artists can command a virtuoso’s seat the piano, as aptly proved by Mykola Suk in his recital Nov. 15 before 150 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall.
Seventy years is of little consequence when a pianist has the vision and technique of Mr. Suk, and the recital juxtaposed two familiar works with several “old ghosts” in the reper... more
Conductor Norman Gamboa is known for innovative programming, especially with Latin-theme music, but in the Nov. 14 concert at Santa Rosa High School’s Performing Arts Hall he chose three familiar works by American composers But true to form a new piece from local composer Frank LaRocca was also in the mix.
Barber’s The School for Scandal: Overture, the composer’s first popular work, received slow tempos but had additional clarity of instrumental voices that Mr. Gamboa coaxed from the ... more
Mozart’s C Minor Quartet, K. 465, has had the sobriquet “dissonant” almost since its 1785 composition, but the word really doesn’t seem to apply. It’s a buoyant work, after an initial, deep melancholy and minor key clashes are overcome.
In their Nov. 13 Weill Hall concert the Juilliard String Quartet made the Mozart the evening’s cornerstone before an appreciative audience of 700 chamber music fans. All four movements received a reading of meticulous attention to attack, phrasing and... more
With the social and musical glamour surrounding the recent Lang Lang and Joshua Bell recitals in Weill, the Academy of St. Martin in the Field’s eight-musician chamber ensemble's Oct. 24 concert came as a calming musical breeze.
Known to lovers of fine orchestral playing through their scores of recordings, the Academy from London made their local debut with three works that spotlighted refinement and taste rather than high drama. What better way to begin a showcase of distinctive string... more
One would have thought that the glitz surrounding Lang Lang’s 101 Pianists Foundation program Oct. 4 in Weill would have upstaged chamber music at the same time in nearby Schroeder Hall. Not to worry, as the Trio Navarro continues to perform sometimes-neglected gems from the trio literature with a level of artistry that the Chinese superstar might grandly applaud.
In Rimsky-Korsakov’s My Musical Life he writes in 1905 that the works and life of his pupil Anton Arensky “…will soo... more
Lang Lang has performed three times in Sonoma County, all reviewed at Classical Sonoma, and I was anxious when he mounted the Weill Hall stage Oct. 3 to hear what might have changed in his playing since September of 2013.
The program was exactly the same as played in recent Paris and Torino recitals (on YouTube) so the unique nature of the readings was somewhat familiar. And as the New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini has written, at a Lang Lang concert one hopes for the be... more
Symphonic concerts with Latin programs usually have Copland’s El Salon Mexico, a suite from Chavez, and perhaps some Lecuana or Nazareth. Leave it to the Sonoma County Philharmonic and conductor Norman Gamboa to go in a different direction in their season-opening Latin Fiesta event Sept. 26 in the Santa Rosa High School Auditorium.
The afternoon’s major work, Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Brasilieras No. 7, is not as well known as numbers 1 and 5, and it the longest and darkest of the set of ... more
A closing concert for a summer music festival, even a new series such as the Valley of the Moon Music Festival (VMMF), should be a capstone for the series. The recent Chamberfest Concerts at the Green Music Center, with all six Bach Brandenburgs as the finale, are an example.
Artists at the Festival finished the seven-event set August 2 with three mostly light-hearted works that underscored the period instrumental Festival sound. An oddity began the concert, Mozart’s B-Flat Major Pian... more
Completing the Mendocino Music Festival’s piano series July 22 was an energetic recital by returning Festival artist Spencer Myer. The nearly full Preston Hall audience was treated to a program, announced from the piano, that had broad musical appeal and panache.
Exploring the Festival’s Mozart theme, Mr. Myer played the G Major Sonata, K. 283, with grace, balanced scales and seamless right-hand trills. The following Adagio and robustPresto unfolded with
silky grace... more
Among the several North Coast summer festivals in 2015 is a new one, the Valley of the Moon Music Festival, directed by San Francisco-area artists Tanya Tomkins and Eric Zivian. It’s unique in presenting seven concerts of the Classical and Romantic eras with instruments designed and mostly built when the music was written.
Held in the new auditorium of Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center, the series was inaugurated July 19 with a splendid afternoon of chamber works featuring clarinetist Eric Ho... more
Taiwanese pianist Ching-Yun Hu made a formidable Mendocino Music Festival debut recital July 16 in Mendocino’s Preston Hall.
A full house warmly greeted the diminutive artist, and she responded with a pensive and then dramatic performance of Scriabin’s Sonata Fantasy, Op. 19. Writers refer to this work as related to the sea, appropriate to this venue where at intervals the distant surf can be heard. This year is the 100th anniversary of Scriabin’s death, and the G-Sharp Minor Sonata h... more
Summer music festivals season tend to be launched each season with a sparkling audience-pleasing program, and the 29th Mendocino Music Festival opening concert was no exception July 11 with an all-Russian program in the big white tent concert hall on Mendocino’s breezy bluff.
Conducted by Artistic Director Allan Pollack, Shostakovich’s Jazz Suite No. 2 was an exciting beginning, a three-movement work from the 1930s that takes raucous orchestration to its zenith. The composer is a maste... more
“Well, you should have been there.” A trite saying used too often by concertgoers? Sure. But surely it was the appropriate adage for the final Chamberfest concert June 28 in Sonoma State’s Weill Hall.
Capping a nine-event series mostly in Schroeder Hall, Jeffrey Kahane led ensembles of up to 20 musicians in an extraordinary traversal of Bach’s complete Brandenburg Concertos. Written in the small Thuringia town of Cöthen in 1721, the six are multi-movement works of instrumental compl... more
Sonoma County organist James Harrod contributed the organ work analysis in this review.
Pianist Natasha Paremski had the stellar role June 26 in the third Chamberfest program in Schroeder Hall, beginning with Beethoven’s A Flat Sonata, Op. 110. Classical Sonoma was unable to review the Sonata’s performance, said by many in the packed hall to be seminal and inspiring.
Following the Beethoven, organist Malcolm Matthews played three variations of the German Advent hymn “Now... more
Jeffrey Kahane has done it again. After multiple Sonoma County appearances since leaving the Santa Rosa Symphony in 2006, the pianist and conductor has designed a scintillating summer concert series at Sonoma State’s Green Music Center – Chamberfest.
The first of nine concerts in a short five-day span June 24 featured a muscular program of Beethoven and Brahms, with a tiny Bach transcription as a tasty prelude. Beethoven’s early Op. 5 F Major Cello Sonata received a sparkling reading ... more
Verdi’s operas tend to have a visceral impact on listeners, the connection forged by emphasizing starkly realistic human emotions and glorious tunes for singers and richly hued orchestra writing. But not in his last opera written in 1893: Falstaff.
In only the Italian master's second comedy, Falstaff can seem at well over two hours drawn out and lacking the catchy melodies of the operas Rigoletto, Aida or Ernani. Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater production began June 12, running for nine ... more
In a May 1 program that balanced vocal and instrumental virtuosity the American Bach Soloists closed their 26th season in grand style in Belvedere’s austere St. Stephen’s Church.
Led by the indomitable conductor Jeffrey Thomas the first half of the program featured a rarely heard cello concerto, a sensuous psalm setting and music’s most famous concerto for two violins. ABS concertmaster Elizabeth Blumenstock was joined by Cynthia Black in Bach's D Minor Concerto, BWV 1043, and the thre... more
Virtuoso instrumentalists frequently get together in a trio for a few concerts with the resulting playing being exciting but the performance sounding a little unfinished. This was decidedly not what happened with the Mutter-Bronfman-Harrell Trio April 19 in Weill, as the two works on the program had been played many times recently during their long American tour.
Beginning with the iconic Beethoven “Archduke” Trio in B-Flat Major, Op. 97, the group chose moderate tempos and eschewed o... more
Though the Santa Rosa Symphony is the Green Music Center’s resident orchestra, when the San Francisco Symphony plays Weill Hall they take total artistic ownership. In the penultimate of the four annual Bay Area run outs the SFS played a compelling program April 16 of four masterworks with flawless cohesion and virtuosity.
Using a reduced-size orchestra of no percussion and just three cellos and two basses conductor Pablo Heras-Casado directed a taut and balanced Haydn Symphony No. 44 i... more
In a balanced Music at Oakmont recital April 9 violinist Elena Urioste played an animated program featuring British and American composers, but with some compositional surprises.
The first came with Paul Schoenfield’s Four Souvenirs, a suite of four pieces that combined several dance forms that were at turns lighthearted and intricate, especially in the contrary motion lines of the complex final Square dance. This was snazzy music reminiscent of the composer’s popular “Café Music” and ... more
Concluding a stellar season March 28 in the Santa Rosa High School Auditorium the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a concert rich in orchestral symmetry, mixed with a piquant flute concerto.
The symmetry began with the afternoon’s initial work, Carlos Escalante Macaya’s five-part “Ineluctble…El Tiempo.” Composed as a dance suite, the work spanned 30 minutes had a sensuous mix of color, especially from the winds, harp (Dan Levitan) and a six-person percussion section. Led by timpanist... more
It’s rare in a symphony concert, even one with many surprises, that a soloist takes on two disparate concertos with mostly identical results. But it was exactly the outcome of pianist Olga Kern’s appearance March 21 with the Santa Rosa Symphony in Weill Hall.
Surprises? The first came with her poetic but subdued performance in Rachmaninoff’s Op. 1 F-Sharp Minor Concerto. Choosing an approach removed from the standard heroism (recordings by the composer and compatriot Mikhail Pletnev)... more
Murray Perahia has built a long pianistic career based on performances of discernment, classical structure and impeccable taste. His playing always exudes a refinement and lapidary attention to musical detail. And so it was in his March 7 Weill Hall debut recital before an audience of 900, with a conventional program of balanced and celebrated works.
Opening the evening Bach’s 6th French Suite (BWV. 817) received a reading emphasizing careful dynamic control, fast tempos in the Courant... more
Les Pfutzenreuter is a conductor that gets around, moving from his Ukiah base at Mendocino College and the Ukiah Symphony to festival and concert appearances with many orchestras. February 22 found him with the Healdsburg Philharmonia in that Citys Raven Theater with works of Copland and Tchaikovsky.
Cellist Joel Cohen was the featured soloist in Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations, Op. 33, a work he played recently with the same conductor and the Ukiah Symphony. Here the Orchestra ... more
Orchestras on tour usually perform hefty display works to showoff their virtuosity and power. And so it was with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande (OSR) Feb. 14 in Weill Hall. Big works, weighty display. And in a surprise the compositions by Stravinsky and Ravel in the second half did the rare thing of upstaging a popular Rachmaninoff piece with piano.
Debussy’s Ibéria opened the concert and the performance established the OSR as a resplendent ensemble with a charismatic leader. C... more
A Bruckner Symphony performance can be a demanding task for both the orchestra and audience, as each of the nine are long and musically wandering. But not all that wander are lost, as the Sonoma County Philharmonic proved in their Feb. 15 concert in the Santa Rosa High School Performing Arts Center.
Led by guest conductor Reginaldo Nascimento the SCP took on the E Major 7th (“Lyric”) Symphony in a performance that lasted 63 minutes. The work is long but it’s a heavenly length, the con... more
Notable cello concerts have recently graced Sonoma County with Edward Arron’s Oakmont recital and Yo Yo Ma’s sterling solo outing in Weill. So it was not surprising that Sæunn Thorsteindóttir walked onto the Schroeder Hall stage Feb. 1 with pianist Elizabeth Roe and found a packed house of non-Superbowl fans.
In the first half contrasts abounded, beginning with the charming Beethoven Variations on “Bei Männern” from the Magic Flute and ending with the demanding Britten Sonata fr... more
Often international-level instrumental duos are pickup couplings, one virtuoso’s schedule meeting another’s with the resulting desultory concerts. An exception would be the violinist Anne Sophie Mutter with her long-time partner Lambert Orkis, and the Nakamatsu-Manesse Duo.
The latter played a provocative concert Jan. 25 in the Mill Valley United Methodist Church, and the ten years of collaborative music-making of the two Jons was everywhere in evidence. Perhaps the recital’s major wo... more
Cellist Yo Yo Ma’s warm friendship with North Coast audiences entered a new chapter Jan. 24 in a standing-room only and stage seats Weill Hall recital. Playing three Bach Suites for solo cello, Mr. Ma could have echoed the young Liszt’s famous comment, “the concert is me.”
But the concert was really about Bach, and Mr. Ma’s dedication and mastery for these ever-fresh works composed in the early 1720s in Cöthen, Germany. Wearing a simple dark suit he walked quickly on stage to first of... more
David McCarroll and Roy Bogas opened the 2015 “Sundays at Schroeder” series at the Green Music Center Jan. 18 in a recital that featured admirable virtuosity and a provocative repertoire.
They began with Mozart’s two-movement E Minor Sonata, K. 304. The work is at turns is sinister and tranquil, and the two artists played a modest “question and answer” with many forte and piano contrasts. The elegant final phrases in the Tempo di Minuetto reflected the striking thematic developm... more
Napa Valley Music Associates 20th annual Mozart concert Jan. 11 was a mostly Mozart event at the Jamieson Ranch Vineyards, but five mostly romantic composers happily joined the musical mix.
Jassen Todorov was the featured violinist in two Sonatas, the F Major (K. 377) and the B Flat (K. 378), partnered with pianist Adrian Borcea. The acoustics of the winery party room were dead and the duo adopted a muscular approach to the overflowing energy of the K. 377 Allegro, the piano at times c... more
Rachmaninoff’s haunting cello sonata highlighted Music at Oakmont’s first 2015 concert Jan. 8 in the retirement community’s spacious Berger Auditorium.
In a reading that was both muscular and lush cellist Edward Arron and pianist Jeewon Park explored the ripe romanticism of the Russian’s 1901 G Minor work, replete with references from the F Minor Piano Concerto of ten years earlier. It was played sumptuously with initially fast tempos and piquant inner voices. Mr. Arron is a cellist w... more
Santa Rosa Symphony conductor Bruno Ferrandis put together a curious program mix Dec. 8 in Weill Hall that on paper promised a culture clash, but actually delivered a memorable musical experience.
Composers often fashion suites from orchestral works, and just as often the shorter suite can be more effective than the complete piece. Stravinsky’s 1920 ballet Pulcinella in the popular abridged form is a familiar concert piece, but the complete work comprised the program’s second half, and... more
Sonoma County Philharmonic conductor Norman Gamboa mounted a crackerjack program Nov. 15 to end the Philharmonic's 2014 calendar year. It was a balanced menu of dramatic orchestral playing, beguiling choral works and an intriguing piano soloist in Santa Rosa's High School Auditorium.
The evening's chief works were preceded by the charming Dvorak Serenade for Wind Instruments, Op. 44. For some the Dvorak might have appeared to be an opening "filler," but actually it was a feast for winds... more
Several surprises characterized the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 10 Weill Hall concert, the first being an almost full house on a Monday night after the same program was heard the two previous days.
The important surprise was how well the audience liked the thorny Dutilleux cello concerto, Tout un Monde Lointain (A Whole Distant World), written for Rostropovich in 1970 and played to the hilt by Swiss cellist Christian Poltéra. It was a courageous program selection by conductor Bru... more
Europe-based Kevin Kenner chose a husky program for his Marin debut recital Nov. 9 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall, and elected three masterpieces from the Romantic piano literature.
Schubert’s C Major “Wanderer” Fantasy has nearly disappeared from recital programs, but it was a deft opening selection. It’s a work of momentum and drama throughout, and Mr. Kenner surprisingly was in no hurry in most of the earlier sections, using lots of damper pedal and emphasizing rumbling le... more
Part of the Trio Navarro’s sterling reputation rests with the rare repertoire they perform. So it was a bit of a surprise Oct. 26 in Schroeder Hall when they programmed popular works by Beethoven and Rachmaninoff. Somehow Max Bruch pieces managed to sneak into the mix.
The Bruch in a way stole the show. Four selections were played from a work transcribed from the original Op. 83 for viola, piano and clarinet. The Navarro performed Nos. 2, 5, 6 and 7, all in a minor key save for the la... more
Reporting on a recital by the Austin-based pianist Anton Nel is a predictably satisfying task. His playing Oct. 19 in SRJC’s Newman Auditorium mirrored a recital on the same stage nearly two years ago and showcased a high level of professionalism and artistry.
Beginning with Mozart’s D Major "Duport Variations," K. 573, Mr. Nel continued just where he left off in 2012, offering an urbane and witty performance. A cornucopia of small details--just a touch of pedal at phrase endings, pearl... more
Israeli pianist Einav Yarden has had several past Sonoma County appearances, but her Oct. 16 Music at Oakmont recital exhibited a new and attractive level of resolute programming, instrumental mastery and impressive musicianship.
She played three substantial works, including the opening Second English Suite of Bach (BWV 807), which was in many ways the most memorable. The Prelude was lively but never too fast, allowing clarity in the mainly two-voiced contrapuntal lines, and leading s... more
Three works composed within three years of each other were programmed in the San Francisco Symphony’s concert in Weill Hall on Oct. 16, but each was sharply different.
Before a nearly full house, conductor Stéphane Denève opened with Barber’s iconic Adagio for Strings, Op. 11, in a compelling but not overly intense 10-minute performance. Cutoffs were precise, as were the violin section attacks. Mr. Denève fashioned a short concluding fermata but momentarily stopped any audience respons... more
It’s not an easy task to upstage the virtuoso cellist Zuill Bailey, but Marin Symphony conductor Alasdair Neale did it convincingly in a Sept. 30 concert at the Marin Center Auditorium.
Mr. Bailey didn’t easily relinquish the starring role and played an eloquent and urbane performance in St. Saëns’ First Concerto, Op. 33, from 1872. For Mr. Bailey, a North Coast favorite, it was a surprisingly low temperature performance that had fast tempos and at times a legato that blurred scale p... more
For the first Sunday afternoon concert of their 16th season, on Sept. 28, the Sonoma County Philharmonic presented an all-Russian program that spotlighted intoxicating orchestral sonorities and heroic conducting from Norman Gamboa. He opened with a stunning performance of Kabalevsky's snappy overture to the opera "Colas Breugnon." This five-minute romp is reminiscent of Shostakovich's "Festival Overture," written 16 years later.
Renowned Irish violinist Michael d'Arcy followed with a fo... more
Planning a piano program around a single theme or name can be tricky because cutesy connections can easily displace artistic merit. Fortunately, Juho Pohjonen's Sept. 14 recital in the inaugural "Sundays at Schroeder" concert was a textbook example of a successful theme--ballades--supported by wonderful music.
Grieg's seldom-played G Minor ballade had perhaps the most convincing performance of the afternoon. Built on 14 variations on a Norwegian folk song, the work is the composer's bes... more
After years of chamber music frustration in Sonoma State University's Ives and Weill halls, the Trio Navarro basked in acoustical clarity Aug. 24 at their debut concert in the university's new Schroeder Hall.
The acoustics in Weill before small audiences, and with lush romantic chamber music, made blurred legato piano lines the norm. In Sunday's performance of Taneyev's D Major Trio, Op. 22, all was heard clearly. Pianist Marilyn Thompson joined cellist Jill Brindel and violinist Victor... more
Though many of the inaugural Schroeder Hall concerts had larger audiences than the Aug. 24 faculty and community musician event, few of them had such lovely music on display.
Some of the best were first, with ravishing music from SSU guitarist Eric Cabalo and Santa Rosa Symphony violinist Eugenie Wie. This fetching duo played Piazzolla’s “Historie du Tango” with bandoneon concertina effects and rich sonority. Ms. Wie played with minimal vibrato, and Mr. Cabalo exhibited subtle control o... more
What could end a wildly successful 10-concert inaugural weekend in SSU’s new Schroeder Hall? A resounding concert of manifold brass, organ and voice that turned out by a wide margin to be the overall audience favorite.
The long Sunday evening event put on display every piece of Schroeder’s vaunted acoustics. Led by organists James David Christie and Julian Wachner, 11 works--from Vivaldi to a new-age organ improvisation and a world premiere--showcased the elegant small hall.
Jeffrey Kahane returns frequently to Sonoma County in conducting and concerto performance, but rarely in recital. Two past solo events come to mind, a "fantasy" program where the Copland outshone the Schumann and Chopin, and an uneven concert capped by Chopin's F Minor Ballade.
A jammed Schroeder Hall audience heard Mr. Kahane August 23 in a short recital during the opening weekend's events. He began with Beethoven's C Minor "Pathétique" Sonata, Op. 13. After playing a riveting slow fi... more
A choral concert by the Sonoma Bach Choir was a fitting opening for the new Schroeder Hall at Sonoma State University on Aug. 23. After all, the idea for the Green Music Center came many years ago from Don Green, who at the time was singing in the Bach Choir, conducted then and now by Bob Worth.
The program offered an eclectic mixture of voice and organ music that was often preceded by Mr. Worth's erudite commentary and his reading of various poems. David Parsons was the versatile organ... more
PianoSonoma concluded its artist-in-residence performances August 3 in a sparkling Weill Hall concert where mostly new music overshadowed conventional fare.
Mendelssohn’s popular D Minor Trio began the program in a workmanlike performance that never quite caught fire. Tempos throughout were judicious, supported by the warm bottom register of cellist Julian Schwartz, and pianist David Aladashvili’s legato scale passages were, as usual for chamber music in Weill, often indistinct.
At each Mendocino Music Festival a key evening is given over to a staged opera in the big tent, and last year Rossini’s frothy “Il Signor Bruschino” was an audience hit but hardly comprehensive operatic fare.
Times change. Mozart’s weighty opera Don Giovanni was given a propulsive but often confusing single performance July 18 before a sold out audience in the Festival tent.
Confusion began early with masked black-robed faces roaming the semi-bare stage and Dennis Rupp, perf... more
Pianist Robert Schwartz opened Mendocino Music Festival’s piano series July 17 with a set of works in a recital made for keyboard connoisseurs. His success was doubly gratifying for the artist as he had played on the same stage at last year’s Festival, but had to cancel most of the recital due to illness.
This year he began with Mozart’s challenging B-Flat Major Sonata, K. 570. It is a late work, full of contrapuntal interest, but his writer was unable to review the playing.
Bach’s iconic D Minor Clavier Concerto was the centerpiece in the fourth day of Mendocino Music Festival events July 16 in the big tent concert hall, with San Francisco-based Stephen Prutsman the featured artist.
Conducting a chamber orchestra of ten from a lidless piano, Mr. Prutsman took fast tempos and a muscular approach throughout, eschewing subtlety in favor of driving rhythms and dramatic contrasts.
His approach to this contrapuntal masterpiece featured some novel trills w... more
Choral singing, especially unaccompanied by piano or orchestra, seldom gets exposure at a summer music festival. So it was a surprise July 16 to find the Mendocino Music Festival featuring a full program of a capella singing in downtown Mendocino’s Preston Hall.
Perhaps due to the local performers comprising the four groups, the hall was standing room only and the audience wildly appreciative of the singers. Ft. Bragg’s “Sine Nomine” (no name) led off with six songs, the most novel be... more
Napa’s Festival Del Sole’s summer resident orchestra, Sphinx, made a dramatic Weill Hall appearance July 15 with three star performers and a curious mix of pungent repertoire.
Violinist Pinchas Zuckerman received the biggest adulation from the audience, closing the first half playing Bruch’s G Minor Concerto, Op. 26, with his customary control and consistency. An old friend to the Concerto, Mr. Zuckerman played with fastidious if conventional phrasing through the three movements, and t... more
Though not as well known as the formidable Trio Navarro, the Amaryllis Trio has had an increasing chamber music presence since 2012 with manifold Sonoma and Marin County concerts. Sebastopol’s St. Stephen's Church and the Numina Center for the Arts hosted them June 27 in a sparkling concert of four composers' compositions.
Piazzolla’s popular "Four Seasons of Buenos Aires" began and ended the evening, beginning with the spring and summer movements and ending with fall and winter. This l... more
Hilary Hahn’s April 27 Weill Hall recital found the violinist entering the stage without her instrument, beginning ten minutes of comments about the program. She does these introductions well, and most of the audience enjoyed the discourse comparing Schubert's Fantasia for Violin with Schoenberg’s thorny Phantasy for Violin, and her recent commissioning project of 27 encore pieces.
And it was with this fresh set that she began with Welsh composer Richard Barrett’s three-minute “Shade,” ... more
In the season’s penultimate Sonoma Classical Music Society concert on Sunday afternoon, April 13, Russian pianist Anastasia Dedik played an all-Russian program that was heavy on drama with just a modicum of lyricism.
Two Rachmaninoff Etudes Tableaux opened the program, the E-Flat Minor from Op. 33 and the F Sharp from Op. 39. These are stormy pieces with broad rhythms and, in the latter, loud doubled staccato chords. These pieces have a lot of notes in a short span and were played aggre... more
Northern California’s Trio Navarro presented just two works in an April 6 Weill Hall concert, an event with consummate playing, inspired drama and ample thematic richness.
Schubert’s B-Flat Major Trio, D. 898, was the evening’s highlight and was familiar fare for the estimable Navarro. The wonderful opening Allegro Moderato was initially played with restraint but became warmly lyrical in the exposition and development, yet devoid of any sentimentality. This is music of eternal sunshine.... more
On paper the Santa Rosa Symphony's March 23 concert in Weill Hall looked promising and even provocative, with a world-premiere concerto, a famous solo violist and two flashy Russian orchestral works. But as often is the case, in unexpected ways the whole was not equal to the sum of the parts.
Behzad Ranjbaran's new viola concerto was written for the Symphony and the eminent British violist, Paul Silverthorne, and closed the concert's first half before 1,200 on yet another balmy Sonoma C... more
An inaugural concert for a new area orchestra is a special deal, and the fledgling North Bay Sinfonietta’s March 14 concert in Santa Rosa’s First Presbyterian Church gave ample evidence of a bright future.
Organized and conducted by Cynthia Weichel, the Sinfonietta’s 30-plus members filled the cramped sanctuary stage and played four disparate works to a cheerful audience of 75. Boieldieu’s Overture to “La Dame Blanche” passed without much notice, the brass overly loud and Cynthia Shankl... more
As a harbinger of spring, the Boston Trio brought sprightly piano trios of Haydn and Beethoven to their Music at Oakmont concert March 13 in Berger Auditorium. Happily the long and weighty Dvorak F Minor Trio, Op. 65, didn't manage to dampen the warm afternoon's ambiance.
The Dvorak performance was the most memorable, with a perfect unison in the somber opening phrase from violinist Irina Muresanu and cellist Jennifer Culp, leading quickly to surging themes set out by pianist Heng-Jin P... more
After a decade-long absence, Gwendolyn Mok returned to the SRJC Chamber Series Feb. 16 in a gem of a balanced and elegant piano recital.
Before an audience of 140 in the College’s Newman Auditorium, the San Jose-based artist began with Beethoven’s early A Major Sonata, Op. 2, No. 2. She quickly caught the Haydnesque humor and charm of the opening Allegro, and in the florid slow movement the dotted notes in the right hand were sharply etched, and the piano tone was opulent. In the Rondo ... more
Laureano Flor is a bit of a Renaissance man: pianist, concert producer, computer-science teacher, sartorial personage. Many of his manifold talents were in place on Valentine's Day in a multi-performer concert for 75 in the renovated Sebastopol Center for the Arts.
The program's title, "Images of Music," was apt, with three of 19th-century landscape painter Frederick Church's works providing the backdrop for three of composer Daniel Baldwin's bucolic and plaintive pieces. Performed by c... more
Music at Oakmont in their eight-concert season features mostly instrumental ensembles, and rarely pianists. But when they do the pianists are pretty good. Ching-Yun Hu's performance Feb.13 in Berger Auditorium, for example, was at a first-cabin level of virtuosity.
A conventional repertoire first half included Chopin (the Second Sonata in B-Flat Minor) and Ravel’s "Gaspard de la Nuit," and the entire second part was pungent Spanish music. The Sonata emphasized the house piano’s bright t... more
In the classical music world, snazzy innovation and music puffery catch the headlines, but there is always a role for an instrumental group with long experience and impeccable artistic integrity. The Alexander String Quartet's Feb. 9 concert in the Sonoma Classical Chamber Music Series proved that decades of performance excellence could make an all-Beethoven program seem as familiar and cozy as an old house slipper.
Before a packed Vintage House audience, the Alexander opened with the 1... more
Sonoma State’s resident Trio Navarro presented an all-French program Jan. 26 but somehow the German Baroque composer Telemann’s Quartet in E Minor managed to open the concert before 150 in Weill Hall.
Featuring a flute, violin, cello and the University’s cute green harpsichord, the Telemann work from 1733 was a perky beginning, though the modern flute seemed novel after recently hearing American Bach Soloists Marin Concert that had lots of the mellower Baroque flute sound. Each of the s... more
Perfection in classical concert performance is a tough job, especially on a consistent basis. The redoubtable American Bach Soloists (ABS), however, manage to reach musical perfection often, and they did it again Jan. 24 in a sterling event in Belvedere's St. Stephen's Church.
Beginning their 25th season, and before a full house of 285, music director Jeffrey Thomas fashioned a long Bach program: two Cantatas, the B Minor Orchestral Suite and the wonderful Magnificat, BWV 1733. Before C... more
In an audacious programming twist, Sonoma County’s River Choir and instrumental colleagues performed Vivaldi’s Gloria (RV 589) Jan. 19 in two versions, distinct but also very much together.
Directed by Sonia Morse Tubridy, the 20 singers and instrumentalists in the dimly lit Guerneville Community Church first performed the popular 30-minute work in the normal fashion, the 12 parts having choruses, solo arias and short string, oboe and baroque trumpet interludes.
Pungent Romantic music dominated the Redwood Arts Council chamber music concert Jan. 18 in the Occidental Community Center, with an aesthetic pianistic introduction of two Bach Preludes and Fugues.
Pianist Eric Zivian brought heavy legato and a full tone to the Bach pieces in E-flat Minor (Book I, BWV 853) and C-Sharp Minor (Book II, BWV 872), taking a judicious tempo in both works and providing careful articulation and repose in the C-Sharp’s fugue. It was not Bach for those used to a ... more
Opening the new year Jan. 9 at Music at Oakmont the Boreal Trio played a program of two diverse and distinct parts, the emphasis on charm rather than drama.
The bucolic first half had lyrical and low-volume works by Schumann and Mozart, the latter's "Kegelstatt" Trio in E-Flat Major (K. 498) setting a tranquil tone. This trio doesn't have a menacing note throughout, but in past performances I have heard the piano and clarinet lines covering the viola. Here Juan-Miguel Hernandez' viola l... more
It was a “coming home for Christmas” event Dec. 14 when the American Bach Soloists (ABS) launched their 25th season with a glorious concert in Belvedere’s St. Stephens Church. The ABS was founded in 1989 in this venue, and chose the fortress-like church for presenting two Bach cantatas and a bevy of holiday music by seven composers.
Beginning with the fifth segment (“Ehre sei dir, Gott, gesungen”) of the massive six-part Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248, the ABS partnered this 11-section can... more
A major part of the Trio Navarro’s approach to chamber music has been discovery, as over many years they have explored novel (if not new or radical) corners of the small ensemble repertoire. November 24’s concert in Weill Hall was no exception as an unfamiliar piano quartet and trio were the evening’s most intriguing offerings.
Georgy Catoire’s lively and atmospheric A Minor Quartet opened the concert, and the Trio’s Victor Romasevich (violin), cellist Jill Rachuy Brindel and Marilyn Th... more
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet has made French piano music a principal part of his career, but his artistry extends to far more than Gallic masterpieces, as he convincingly demonstrated in a Nov. 22 recital for the SRJC Chamber Concerts series.
Before 180 in Newman Auditorium, Mr. Bavouzet opened with a sparkling reading of Beethoven’s "Waldstein" Sonata that featured sprightly tempos and precise articulation. The opening Allegro con Brio was so accurate that it could have been used for score dic... more
As with many orchestras, the American Philharmonic Sonoma County (APSC) produces programs with a theme, and the Nov. 16 concert in the Santa Rosa High School Performing Arts Auditorium had the title "Polish." But only Chopin's E Minor Piano Concerto was the genuine article, though the companion Third Tchaikovsky Symphony, Op. 29 ("Polish"), was the star of the show.
Alice Zhu was the soloist in the Concerto, the engagement related to her being awarded the Orchestra's young artist prize ... more
Pianist Gustavo Romero has become a frequent Sonoma County visitor, playing in several Santa Rosa halls and homes in recent years. On Nov. 1, he made his Marin County debut at Dominican University’s Guest Artist Series in Angelico Hall.
The Dallas-based artist eschews stage flair and keeps remarks to a minimum, instead sitting mostly motionless at the piano, left foot always on the shift pedal. He exhibits a palpable concentration on the matters at hand.
Soheil Nasseri opened the 23rd Music at Oakmont season Oct. 17 in a piano recital where words from the artist nearly overwhelmed the offered music.
Choosing an all-Beethoven program, Mr. Nasseri preceded the A Major Sonata, Op. 101, with words of personal introduction and humorous anecdotes. The wonderful sonata itself, from Beethoven's last period, was played rather perfunctorily, with plodding tempos and a lack of rhythmic interest. The artist described a non-musical program for the w... more
In a program with water and ocean themes the American Philharmonic Sonoma County (APSC) opened their 15th season Oct. 12 and 13 in Santa Rosa High School’s Performing Arts Center. The day was sunny and dry but the music was a saturated with color and often radiance.
Mendelssohn’s charming overture Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, Op. 27, opened the concert with strong playing in all sections, notably in the brass and the horns playing fluttering phrases. Conductor Norman Gamboa moved the... more
Along with pianist Garrick Ohlsson's formidable technique and artistry, curiosity has been a hallmark of his long career. Though playing the conventional repertoire superbly, he constantly ventures into unknown corners of piano music.
The centerpiece of his Oct. 12 recital at Weill Hall in Rohnert Park was the seldom-heard Liszt work Ad Nos, Ad Salutarem Unam, written for organ in 1852 and transcribed for piano in 1897 by Busoni. In 23 minutes, Liszt (or should it be Busoni?) bui... more
The Boston-based Gramercy Trio opened the SRJC Chamber Music Series Oct. 11 with three trios that leaned heavily on powerful thematic projection and trenchant sound.
Before 160 people in SRJC's Ellis Auditorium in Petaluma, the Gramercy opened with a muscular reading of Beethoven's massive "Archduke" Trio in B Flat, Op. 97. Pianist Randall Hodgkinson pushed the pace throughout the work, playing spiky but effective sforzandos and seemingly insisting on more sonority from violin... more
It’s always a recital of surprises when the exciting pianist Lang Lang plays. In a reprise concert from last season’s Weill Hall opening gala, the Chinese virtuoso eschewed 2012’s conventional format of Mozart Sonatas and Chopin Ballades and chose Sept. 17 a mixed bag of Chopin works that alternatively titillated and enraptured a full house that included 50 stage seats.
Mr. Lang’s pianism is startlingly complete with an inexhaustible command of technical details. Even in difficult cross... more
Launching the first fall season concert in Weill Hall, the San Francisco Symphony played a peculiarly challenging program Sept. 12 to an audience that was happy to encounter more than just the popular Tchaikovsky B Flat Piano Concerto.
"Challenging" was the operative word for the Third Prokofiev Symphony, a work from 1928 that has few current podium champions. One conductor who loves the work is Michael Tilson Thomas, and he drew an inspired and brilliant performance from his orchestra.... more
In a surprise for Sonoma County chamber music, a scintillating piano and violin duo has seemingly become a yearly visitor. Appearing August 23 for a second time in Santa Rosa’s First Presbyterian Church, the Krechkovsky-Loucks Duo moved a standing room audience of 300 to wild applause in a benefit for the Living Room shelter program.
The concert of three sonatas began with Debussy’s last work, the wonderful G Minor Sonata from 1917. A brief piece of 13 minutes, the sonata demands refin... more
Mendocino Music Festival’s Alan Pollack usually has some musical surprises up his conductor’s sleeve, and at the July 19 Festival opera production he produced a unique coupling of lecture and music, set against the framework of a rarely-mounted 1813 opera.
As a way of extending Rossini’s frothy farce “Il Signor Bruschino” (the accidental son) Mr. Pollack preceded the one-act opera by speaking about enjoying opera to the audience from the stage, spotlighting Rossini and the composer’s fa... more
It's always a formidable task for a performer to appear last on a program after wildly successful performances earlier in the concert. That unenviable job fell to violinist Sarah Chang July 16 when she played the Barber Concerto, Op. 14, with the Russian National Orchestra in Weill Hall, following a splashy St. Saëns piano concerto and a riveting Shostakovich overture.
The Barber is ever lyrical, even in the perpetual motion finale, and throughout its 23-minute duration the bucolic natu... more
Programming the opening concert for the 27th Mendocino Music Festival is not a daunting task, but it’s one that should play to the strengths of the orchestra and the audience. No Schnittke or Elliott Carter in the mix. Conductor Alan Pollack deftly chose rousing and accessible works for the July 13 event before a boisterous full house in the massive white tent on the coast bluff.
Verdi’s overture to the opera “I Vespri Siciliani” launched the 23-concert Festival in a pungent performanc... more
Elina Garanca’s April 9 Weill Hall recital was a connoisseur’s program, eschewing the more popular song literature and concentrating on mostly subtle and evocative works of Schumann, Berg and Richard Strauss.
With pianist Kevin Murphy, the Latvian mezzo soprano, famous from the opera stage as a sumptuous Carmen, programmed four of Schumann's Op. 25 "Myrthen" songs and the introspective and demanding cycle "Frauenliebe und -Leben," Op. 42. Beginning with “Widmung,” the Op. 25 group was d... more
Sonoma State's resident Trio Navarro has a well-earned reputation for eclectic programming, and in their Easter Sunday concert in Weill Hall, they chose the familiar, the rare and the new.
The new was SSU faculty composer Brian Wilson's "And Ezra the Scribe Stood Upon a Pulpit," a trio for horn, violin and piano. It proved to be a tantalizing 14-minute score, beginning with a rumble and a descending sets of chords, with William Klingelhoffer's delicately audible horn emitting hushed sta... more
Good Friday concerts are always spiritual but often can be monotonous and overly long. Cantiamo and the St. Cecelia Choir’s exceptional program March 29 in Santa Rosa’s packed Church of the Incarnation was anything but mundane, and perhaps too short.
Conductor Carol Menke fashioned a balanced evening, concluding with John Rutter’s animated Requiem, written in 1985 for medium choir, small instrumental ensemble, organ and soprano soloist. The opening Introit (Requiem Aeternam) and Kyrie... more
Attending a Nina Tichman recital is a warmly familiar experience, as the Cologne-based pianist plays nearly everything in the standard literature with a professional command and artistic probity. There is sentiment in her playing but not sentimentality, attention to detail that is never fussy, and interpretations of intriguing music that are sober and thoughtful.
In her fifth recital in the Oakmont Concert Series on March 14, Ms. Tichman programmed a lively first half consisting of unfa... more
Violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter charmed a Weill Hall audience March 2 in a recital that eschewed popular works and elicited rapt attention from the 1,300 listeners present. Forgoing the staples of the Brahms and Beethoven sonatas, or the Franck and Prokofiev, the German artist played provocative and exciting music with her pianist of long standing, Lambert Orkis.
Lutoslawski’s thorny five-movement Partita from 1984 was played in the second half and was a tour de force for the violinist wit... more
Luxurious orchestration has always been a hallmark of Russian symphonic music, as was evident in the works of Liadov, Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich performed by the American Philharmonic Sonoma County (APSC) at the Santa Rosa High School Performing Arts Hall on Feb. 23.
Guest conductor Mark Wardlaw led a novel work to begin the concert, Liadov’s "Eight Russian Folk Songs," Op. 58. This well-balanced suite from 1906 showcased many sections of the orchestra, with bassoonist Steve Peterson ... more
Pianist Lawrence Holmefjord-Sarabi returned to a hometown Healdsburg Raven Theater audience Feb. 13 in a piano recital heavy on finger busting virtuoso works but short on pianistic subtlety.
Charging into Beethoven’s C Major Sonata, Op.53 (Waldstein), Mr. Holmefjord-Sarabi disclosed that his interests are removed from instrumental color and subtlety, and that he is most happy with the loud and fast. Throughout the program he selected blockbuster display pieces to wow the audience of 20... more
Two one-act operas--Haydn's "The Deserted Island" and Vaughan Williams' "Riders to the Sea"--currently being mounted by Sonoma State University's music, theater and dance departments, reflect the University's usual innovative staging and production. On the Feb. 7 opening night Person Theater's 400 seats were two-thirds filled, overwhelmingly by students. Both operas were in English and had supertitles. Is this common for our common language?
Haydn is known mainly today through his mas... more
Two more disparate chamber works could not be imagined in Weill Hall Feb. 3 when the Trio Navarro presented the Shostakovich Trio in E Minor and Dvorak’s “Dumky,” also in E minor. Both masterpieces have riveting audience interest but are worlds apart in structure and harmonic language.
Dvorak’s trio, popular since its premiere in 1891, received a committed and generous reading from the Navarro. The muddy acoustics of the Nov. 18 Schumann Quintet performance by the Navarro Chamber player... more
The West County’s Amaryllis Trio began their winter concert season Jan. 26 in a charming Sebastopol home. Led by the ubiquitous pianist Sonia Tubridy, the Amaryllis programmed the entire first half with Schumann’s late third Piano Trio, Op. 110. A passionate and wild work, the trio demands an aggressive approach in each of the four movements. The Amaryllis adopted judicious tempos throughout, and the restless and slightly menacing main theme was deftly handed from violinist Lisa Doyle to cellist... more
Russian River’s winter concert season began Jan. 13 with two events at nearly the same location and time, both programs packed with abundant vocal qualities.
Sonia Tubridy’s River Choir performed their annual Winterfest concert in the Guerneville Community Church before 30 ardent listeners. The 12-member choir, diminished from their usual number because of illness, began with a series of short works of Susato, Mozart, Andrejs Jansons, Schubert and Bach.
Violinist Nigel Armstrong is becoming a virtuoso staple for North Bay concerts, having played locally over the past three years in private homes, with symphonic groups and in several formal recitals. January 5 found him giving a benefit recital for the Sonoma Classical Music Society in his Sonoma hometown in the west side Kenny residence. It was an exceptional afternoon of music making.
With pianist Elizabeth Dorman, Mr. Armstrong opened with Beethoven’s Romance in G Major, a 10-minute ... more
Completing a rich 2012 season, the Oakmont Concert Series presented a rare quartet concert Dec. 13 featuring the San Francisco Chamber Players. Marin pianist June Choi Oh, a frequent Oakmont performer with her Tilden Trio, brought along an admirable string company to an audience of 150 in Berger Auditorium.
A Telemann transcription in D Minor opened the concert with march-like playing in a pure Baroque style, the violinist Dan Carlson providing lithe phrasing over the piano’s continuo ... more
Listening to Anton Nel’s piano playing is similar to meeting a charming avuncular relative for a good meal – always much to savor. The Austin-based artist played a balanced and instructive recital Dec. 7 in SRJC’s Newman Auditorium as part of the College’s chamber music series.
Nel opened with a consummately played rendition of Bach’s seven-movement D Major Partita, BWV 828. In the Allemande, he lavished chaste tone and selected a slow tempo, playing off the dissonances. The Courante wa... more
In what must be the fall season’s last blockbuster Green Music Center concert, the San Francisco Symphony played a long awaited program Dec. 6 to an almost full Weill Hall audience.There was a palpable excitement when concertmaster Alexander Barantchik and then conductor Michael Tilson Thomas entered and happily acknowledged loud applause from the assembly and standing orchestra members.
The first half was extraordinary, a champagne orgy of orchestral sound that began with Strauss’ ea... more
Sonoma State’s estimable Trio Navarro, long at the center of the North Bay chamber music scene, morphed into the Navarro Chamber Players on Nov. 18 in a Weill Hall concert that was both exhilarating and puzzling. The trio’s violinist Roy Malan and cellist Jill Rachuy Brindel were absent. Taking their chairs and more were violinists Joseph Edelberg and Kathryn Marshall, violist Betsy London and SSU faculty cellist Judiyaba. The sole Trio Navarro representative was Marilyn Thompson, who anchored t... more
Programming an orchestra concert with Nordic music would seem to be simplicity itself: Grieg for romantic themes, Sibelius for instrumental virtuosity, Nielsen for a 20th-century harmonic component. The combination worked to perfection in the American Philharmonic Sonoma County’s Nov. 17 “Northern Lights” concert in Santa Rosa High School’s Performing Arts Auditorium.
Guest conductor Jovan Zivkovic kept a firm hand on the sonic proceedings, generating the same cogent and balanced sound ... more
Getting noticed in the classical piano world is a daunting task. With an avalanche of young artists, each seeming to play the Ligeti Etudes or the Liszt Sonata while texting a friend, novelty is an important part of getting audiences and having concertgoers pay attention to you.
Santa Rosa Junior College faculty pianist Rudolf Budginas has developed a unique parody of the formal piano recital, and he presented it Nov. 9 in the College’s Newman Auditorium before a packed house of titilla... more
In a memorable concert on Oct. 20, the American Philharmonic Sonoma County (APSC) opened a new season with a new music director and a new home in an historic Santa Rosa hall.
It was with some trepidation that old-time audience members, familiar with the Santa Rosa High School Auditorium from the Santa Rosa Symphony’s 30-year residence ending in 1982, arrived at the refurbished 900-seat venue. How would the “people’s orchestra” play in a hall famous for bright but indistinct acoustics? ... more
Austin-based pianist Gustavo Romero has a second artistic home in Sonoma County, having played three times on the Oakmont Concert Series and in a number of private concerts. He returned to Oakmont’s Berger Auditorium Oct. 18 to play a formidable recital of Bach, Beethoven, Debussy and Rachmaninoff.
In one of the longest programs in recent memory, Mr. Romero played three Beethoven sonatas, finishing the first half with the mighty “Appassionata.” Throughout the afternoon, he was never in ... more
An incessant topic of audience conversation about acoustics in the newly-opened Weill Hall – where is best to sit, can the oboe be heard - has tended since the inaugural gala weekend to overshadow the actual performances. Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin put many of those notions to rest Oct. 13 with a splendid recital of mostly French art song before a half-full house.
With pianist Michael McMahon, Ms. Gauvin presented six groups of songs in French that, although it’s the singer’s nativ... more
The show isn’t over until the shouting fades away. With the brand-new Weill Hall’s rear wall raised and the evening breezes flowing, the applause from the second and last encore of pianist Lang Lang’s Sept. 29 opening recital might have been heard all the way to Petaluma. It was that kind of concert, unique and memorable.
After more than a decade of construction delays and massive cost overruns, the centerpiece hall of the Green Music Center finally opened with the Chinese superstar kic... more
Cellist Jennifer Culp brought a surprise to her Oakmont Concert Series performance on Sept. 13 when she opened with Barber’s early Cello Sonata, Op. 6. Beginning with a tonal yet difficult to assimilate work was a good choice, as mostly familiar pieces filled out the recital before about 125 patrons in Berger Auditorium.
Partnering with long-time collaborator pianist Betty Woo, Ms. Culp played the three-movement Barber sonata with solid technical command and admirable balance with the p... more
Barbara Nissman’s pianism is best heard on her own terms, with little comparison to current performance practices. This was in evidence June 14 when the venerable West Virginia artist returned to Sonoma County, playing a long recital in the Oakmont Concert Series before 160 in Berger Auditorium.
The recital was long because of the artist’s spoken introduction (both incisive and silly) and because the program was packed with pieces associated with Ms. Nissman’s lengthy career, beginning... more
May 6 marked the American Philharmonic Sonoma County's final concert in the Wells Fargo Center, and with the Santa Rosa Symphony leaving Wells after mid-May, orchestra events may soon be a dim memory in the venerable hall.
An audience of 950 sat through the usual bevy of announcements and raffle prizes, along with candidate conductor Norman Gamboa's slightly inane descriptions of what the concert's two compositions meant to him. But it was that kind of event, and the crowd was heavily s... more
Local boy makes good was the operative theme March 26 when violinist Nigel Armstrong played a recital before a jammed Andrews Hall in downtown Sonoma, the event produced by the Sonoma Chamber Music Society. From Mr. Armstrong’s initial entrance with pianist Marilyn Thompson to a final raucous encore, the audience seemed to hang on every note and bodily movement of the young violinist.
The first half, consisting of Beethoven’s “Spring Sonata” and the Debussy Sonata, was problematical. An... more
Prospects for exciting Santa Rosa Symphony concert on March 19 were all good: three alluring soloists, two primo Beethoven works and John Adams' beguiling symphonic suite "The Chairman Dances." To a full house in the Wells Fargo Center, the program mix spelled success.
The effervescent suite from Adams’ opera "Nixon in China" (1985) was a shrewd opening. The fabric of sound favored the percussion and tympani sections, whose gongs and woodblocks were often used in spicy syncopation. The ... more
Pianist Joyce Yang came to her Newman Auditorium recital March 16 with a bevy of extravagant press notices and a contented audience. Why contented before a note was played? The SRJC concert committee provided a lavish reception before, not after, the recital, honoring the annual Randolph Newman recital tradition. So there was a warm and perhaps sedentary glow in the packed hall when Ms Yang stepped to the instrument for the first of four Scarlatti Sonatas.
A popular way to reach a wide classical audience is to find a musical niche, playing unfamiliar works with an uncommon passion. Lara Downes has been an ingratiating niche pianist for years, presenting programs of Roy Harris, William Balcom and Aaron Jay Kernis, and lately a unique recital built around Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Before a Newman Auditorium audience Feb. 26 Ms. Downes brought her “13 Ways of Looking at Goldberg” program in the fifth recital of the Concerts Grand season.
The adage that no woman is a prophet in her own home town was, as usual, proven false Feb. 19 when Ukiah native Elizabeth MacDougall gave a warmly satisfying piano recital in Mendocino College’s Choral Room under the auspices of Concerts Grand.
Ms. MacDougall’s artistry has long been admired in the Mendocino County community, and for this recital of three works her audience packed the small room and heard a committed and serious presentation, beginning with Bach’s G Minor English Suite,... more
It’s a rare occurrence in a cello recital that each programmed piece was both a masterwork of the literature and flawlessly performed, admitting nothing but awe and warm satisfaction from even the most seasoned string aficionado.
Such was the thrilling Redwood Arts Council recital of Boris Andrianov Feb. 11 in Occidental's Performing Arts Center before a packed house of 200. How does a flawless cello recital unfold? First a powerful pianist is needed, and the Russian Virtuoso Alexand... more
Sonoma County’s insouciant American Philharmonic opened the first of its three spring concerts Feb. 5 with the Corsair Overture of Berlioz, and the work characterized the entire afternoon in the Wells Fargo Center – loud, flashy, trenchant and exciting.
Music Director candidate Evan Craves, formerly the APSC’s concertmaster, conducted largely without score, rare today and especially given the works at hand. It was even rare in the past, though Von Bulow conducted Tristan, Meistersinger... more
If the nearly 300 people at a Feb. 4 Ukiah concert are an indication, the Deep Valley Chamber Music series has finally arrived. One of the best-kept secrets in North Coast music, Deep Valley has been presenting increasingly challenging repertoire and first-cabin musicians since 2008, and the “Midwinter”concert in First Presbyterian Church was provocative and ultimately satisfying.
Provocative? Chamber music by Dohnanyi (his Serenade for String Trio) and Elgar (his A Minor Piano Quin... more
Virtuoso Korean pianist Yoonjung Han had tough barriers to surmount in her Jan. 19 Tiburon recital. Plying a repeat date for the Thursday Marin Musical Club after a 2011 recital had been cancelled, the Curtis Institute-trained pianist found an audience of 60 eager to hear her program, but was confronted with a sub professional piano wholly inadequate for her artistry. Additionally, the instrument reportedly had no pre-concert preparation and was unable to effectively respond to Ms. Han’s deman... more
The program for Alexander Barantschik’s violin recital Jan. 15 in Newman Auditorium was not at first glance auspicious. And not because of the merits of the four sonatas, as all are masterpieces of the standard repertoire. The critical quandary was that the program was so conventional, the pieces comfortable for the artist, who as the San Francisco Symphony Concertmaster presumably has minimal practice time in less-often-played repertoire. Sonatas by Elgar, Faure, Respighi, Dohnanyi, Paderews... more
Musical detours can bring unexpected surprises, and on New Year’s Eve this writer’s drive to Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater party stopped early for chamber music at the downtown Historical Museum. Sponsored by the Museum and the Sky Hill Cultural Alliance, the concert with gratis holiday refreshments featured two string players from San Francisco and local pianist Elizabeth Walter.
Handel’s Passacaglia, the last movement of the G Minor Harpsichord Suite (BWV 432) was played in John... more
Danish virtuoso Egon Petri once commented that most pianists “spend their melodic purse in small coin.” Elena’s Kuschnerova, in her second Concerts Grand appearance Nov. 20, would have none of that approach, playing a mercurial recital that left nothing on the table in the wake of her potent musical personality.
In SRJC’s Newman Auditorium the Russian dynamo, now living in Baden-Baden, took on Schumann’s mighty Symphonic Etudes, Op. 13, as the first half’s major work. These 12 studies... more
An old musical friend was juxtaposed with two not-quite-so-old interlopers Nov. 6 when the venerable Trio Navarro opened their 2011-2012 season at Sonoma State University’s Green Music Center 1028. Mendelssohn’s iconic D Minor Trio was the old shoe and Trios by Bridge and Turina were the unfamiliar fare.
In a surprise program alignment the rarely-played Bridge C Minor Fantasie Trio and Turina’s Op. 35 Trio comprised the long second half, and both works are episodic and difficult to g... more
Inaugurating a new recital hall piano is always a celebratory event, and Dominican University in San Rafael did the celebration right Oct. 9 when faculty pianist June Choi Oh opened the Guest Concert Series’ 11th season in Angelico Hall.
Choosing works that displayed the full range of the Bösendorfer 290 and her formidable artistry, Ms. Oh began with graceful account of Schubert’s popular B-Flat Major Impromptu, Op. 142, No. 3. Arguably Schubert’s most enchanting set of variations, f... more
John Boyajy is one of the Bay Area’s most active pianists, but he seldom ventures out of his Marin County lair to present his legendary eclectic recitals of famous and rarely-heard composers. Sept. 16 found him at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, with colleague Nicki Bell, to play familiar music in a resounding and unique way.
What was unique about the evening? First, Mr. Boyajy began with a solid and texturally clear reading of Schubert’s lyrical A Flat Major Impromptu from Op, 14... more
Oakmont’s popular concert series, now in its 20th year, usually programs just two pianists in a 12-concert season. However, producer Robert Hayden’s eclectic taste guarantees that the selected pianists will play provocative works, and it was again so June 9 when Israeli artist Einav Yarden presented a bifurcated program before 150 in Oakmont’s Berger Auditorium.
In an admirable first half, Ms. Yarden began with the 11 Beethoven Bagatelles, Op. 119, a change from the announced Op. 33 Ba... more
Balances in an orchestral concert, especially works from just one nation’s composers, are tough to graciously achieve. The Ukiah Symphony’s closing concert May 15 was heavily weighted with boisterous Russian works, and balances to some degree proved to be a concert-long problem.
Somehow a quiet piece slipped in to begin the event, Borodin’s tone poem “In The Steps of Central Asia,” and it was beautifully played. Principal flutist Becky Ayers and principal horn Ben Robinson had the lus... more
It’s pretty rare that an entire classical music program contains just one work, and just 22 minutes at that. Sonia Tubridy’s River Choir thought so much of Bach’s Cantata No. 4, Christ lag in Todesbanden, that they sang it twice in a program April 19, and repeated the Cantata April 26. And they performed it twice each time, and I’ll return to that later.
In the Guerneville Community Church before 35 listeners on the 26th the 13-person choir was joined by violinists Peter Wehaus... more
Continuing a stellar history of innovative piano trio programming, the resident SSU Trio Navarro closed their season April 24 in an Easter Sunday concert replete with two large novelties and a slightly more familiar work by Beethoven.
Before 90 listeners in the Green Music Center’s orchestra rehearsal room, the Navarro first tackled Rorem’s Spring Music, an eclectic 1990 work premiered by the Beaux Arts Trio. In five extended movements, the music isn’t easy to easily assimilate and in... more
San Francisco’s Daniel Glover arguably plays more concerts than any classical pianist residing in Northern California, and his wide repertoire of concertos and solo works are the envy of many musicians. San Rafael’s J-B Piano Emporium was fortunate to host Mr. Glover’s artistry April 3 and 35 music lovers heard an uncompromising program short on familiarity but long on intriguing music.
In the long awaited final recital of the eighth Concerts Grand season, Mr. Glover cast down a provoc... more
Concerts devoted solely to the music of Brahms are not that rare, and Sonoma County had one several years ago in the glorious “Norma Brown and Friends” event at SRJC. But an all-Brahms concert featuring just his cello music is novel, and a splendid example occurred March 29 in Napa’s Jarvis Conservatory.
In a fund raiser benefiting the Napa Valley Symphony, cellist Zuill Bailey joined colleague Awadagin Pratt in the two big Sonatas and several of the Hamburg master’s songs in cello tra... more
Marin Pianist John Boyajy’s concerts are never conventional. His usual mix of extended verbal introduction and musical performance can be unsettling if the balance isn’t right. In a Point Reyes Station recital at the Dance Palace March 27 all was in equilibrium, the music sparkling and the commentary persuasive and enlightening.
Before and audience of 90 on a wet and blustery afternoon the program began with Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Sonata in D, Op. 28, an innovative work from 1801. P... more
Dark and rainy skies parted March 20 at Santa Rosa Junior College for Concerts Grand’s last recital of the Santa Rosa season. However, the sun and warmth quickly brought a new and musical storm into the area, Russian pianist Evgeni Mikhailov’s virtuosity presiding through the works of Chopin, Schumann, Tchaikovsky and Mussorgsky.
Before 101 pianophiles in the small Newman Auditorium Mr. Mikhailov, having just ended a 25-concert American tour playing three concertos with a Polish orch... more
Steven Spooner is a pianist of many musical surprises. In his Feb. 27 recital for Concerts Grand in SRJC’s Newman Auditorium, the Kansas University artist sharply changed the printed program, beginning with a work of his own. The unexpected changes made a good recital, on paper, into an exceptional experience.
That work of his own, a meandering “new age” Etude in the fashion of jazz artist Keith Jarrett, worked well to quiet an audience of 90 in the chilly hall. The tune “My Funny Val... more
Even the most ardent classical music lover would be hard pressed to name a composer of stature that actually resides in the North Bay. Janis and Brian Wilson might be mentioned, and of course there are effervescent Charles Sepos and Healdsburg resident Charles Shere. And John Adams has a home north of Jenner. But for productivity spanning four decades, and manifold performances, only Marin composer Ron McFarland meets every qualification.
Friends of the Tiburon composer paid him homa... more
Piano recitals often split into two parts, the ostensibly profound scores first and after intermission lighter fare is played. Ryan MacEvoy McCullough’s Feb. 6 recital at Mendocino College unfolded in a different way, the blockbuster works appearing just at intermission and during the entire second half.
Produced by Concerts Grand and luring 35 people away from Super Bowl television sets, the concert began with the slowest performance imaginable of Liszt’s imaginative Sonetto Del Petra... more
Chamber music was launched in grand style for the 2011 year Jan. 14 when the American Philharmonic Sonoma County presented the first of three small group concerts featuring artists associated with the APSC.
Designed as a fund raiser to cover costs incurred from the historic tour to China, the concert at the Healdsburg Community Church preceded events at Santa Rosa’s Glaser Center and the charming Jacuzzi Family Vineyards in Sonoma. The performers, named “I Solisti di Sonoma,” donated t... more
Sonia Tubridy, along with Carol Menke the late Nina Shuman, must be noted as Sonoma County’s most multi-tasking musician. In addition the playing the piano for chamber groups and in shows, singing, playing the accordion and leading Klezmer groups, Ms. Tubridy has found time to lead a first-rate choir of 14, the River Choir.
In the first of two holiday concerts in Guerneville’s Community Church Dec. 19, the Choir presented thirty disparate works ranging from the time of William Byrd to ... more
Virtuoso pianist Garrick Ohlsson is clearly at the top of his game, the latest evidence being a blockbuster Beethoven Sonata recital Dec. 16 in Napa’s United Methodist Church.
Celebrating the Bonn’s master’s 240th birthday and coming off a project recording all 32 Sonatas, Mr. Ohlsson met a jammed Chamber Music in Napa Valley audience with a balanced program featuring the familiar, not so familiar and rarely played. Many in the audience of 300 have heard the artist numerous times in th... more
Bach’s massive output of cantatas, numbering more than 230 known sacred and secular works, provides a rich trove for the tradition of holiday choral concerts. Conductor Robert Worth chose four disparate examples of Bach’s compositional genius Dec. 9 in a concert combing a reduced-size Santa Rosa Symphony with the Sonoma Bach Choir and four exceptional soloists.
Part of the Donald and Maureen Green Orchestra Choral Series, the concert was the first of three and drew 350 Bach aficionados... more
Carolyn Tewari must be the most active performing pianist in Sonoma County. In addition to teaching, she has a full schedule playing in retirement homes, churches and concert halls, and has a penchant for music by women composers and partnerships with colleagues.
On November 19 she joined her duo partner of long standing, Jazmin Aliakbari, in a joint recital of eclectic music in the Sebastopol Center for the Performing Arts. The two women switched at the piano from primo to segu... more
Kenn Gartner is Marin’s eclectic pianist, and his playing Nov. 18 during a short recital in Tiburon’s Community Congregational Church underscored his inquisitive musical and intellectual nature.
Sponsored by the decades-old Thursday Musical Club, the concert featured mostly familiar music of Bach, Haydn, Liszt and Chopin, but with many unconventional touches. Mr. Gartner performed most of these pieces March 21 in a recital for Concerts Grand at San Rafael’s J-B Piano Store, but in the ... more
Another chapter in the North Bay’s homage to the Schumann bicentennial occurred Nov. 14 when Russian pianist Ksenia Nosikova played two Schumann works in a Newman Auditorium recital filled with musical rarities.
Performing on the fourth Concerts Grand series event, Ms. Nosikova (faculty artist at the University of Iowa) began not with Robert but with Clara, playing the latter’s Notturno in F Major, a lyrical and often sentimental work. The piece received a deft reading with judicious t... more
After a long dry spell Sonoma County seems to be seeing a flood tide of fine violin playing. David McCarroll, Roy Malan, Michael Ludwig and Vadim Gluzman have played recent concerts, and San Francisco State University Professors Jassen Todorov and William Corbett-Jones continued the trend in a dramatic recital Oct. 31 in SRJC’s Newman Auditorium for the Concerts Grand series.
Before an audience of 112, sprinkled with string players, Tartini’s G Minor Sonata (Devil’s Trill) launched the... more
Schubert’s Piano Sonatas often receive a mixed audience reaction, despite their craftsmanship, sunny tunes and drama. When all the repeats are played, and sections morph into more sections, to some they can seem wandering and overly extended. But not to seasoned musicians, as the prolongation is a heavenly length.
It was this blessed length that pianist Carolyn Steinbuck found Oct. 24 in a Mendocino College recital, the second in the Concerts Grand season. Schubert’s A Major Sonata, ... more
Oakmont’s monthly Concert Series produces just a few solo piano recitals each year, and they usually feature out-of-the-ordinary repertoire and performers of international caliber. October 21’s recital presenting Daria Rabotkina was no exception to the established norm, the young Russian capably playing three big works to a Berger Auditorium of 175 with consummate ease.
The entire first half was devoted to Prokofiev’s Ten Pieces, Op. 75, taken from the ballet Romeo and Juliet. From 19... more
Sara Daneshpour’s Oct. 17 recital launching the 8th Concerts Grand season began with what might be called anxious anticipation from the audience in SRJC’s Newman Auditorium. The program contained mostly brawny virtuoso works, and the first appearance of the petite pianist brought to many minds the thought that musical demands could trump the young artist’s abilities. At the recital’s end, no one in the hall had any such doubts. Big things do come in small packages.
An appreciative audience greeted Gwhyneth Chen Oct. 3 when the pianist launched the Ukiah Community Concerts Association’s new season. And the artist’s mood, mostly lyrical and relaxed, seemed to match that of the audience of 225 that crowded the New Life Community Church.
The program contained five Chopin Nocturnes, including the E-Flat as an encore, and in the initial Op. 32 works a recital-long pattern emerged. Ms. Chen possesses a lovely touch, deft control of cantilena, variation... more
Old friends returned Sept. 19 as the Stauffer Duo, long associated with the Santa Rosa Junior College Chamber Series, return for their 30th anniversary recital in Newman Auditorium. It was the first of the season’s six concerts, with a lively 177 in attendance and the anticipation of a challenging program including two modern works and some solo pianism from a mostly unknown composer.
Currently emeritus professors at San Diego State University, cellist Thomas Stauffer and pianist Cynt... more
Pianist Lara Downes is a proselytizer, a woman on a mission to spread the gospel of American classical music of the early 20th century. Ms. Downes brought her musical discourse to Petaluma’s Historical Museum Sept. 8 in the penultimate concert of Cinnabar Theater’s Summer Music Festival.
Beginning with the popular Barber Excursions, Op. 20, from 1944, the pianist quickly fashioned was to come in the evening’s additional works – large-screen computer generated photos mixed with p... more
Beginning the fall chamber music season August 12 in Oakmont, Chicago’s Lincoln Trio played a disparate and demanding program with consummate artistry before 200 in Berger Auditorium.
But it was not the previously announced program, as the group, in their third appearance on the Oakmont Concert Series, dropped the Trio by contemporary composer Lara Auerbach, and began the first half with Bloch’s Three Nocturnes for Trio, written in 1924.
But no matter, as the playing of the tightly-... more
British pianist Paul Roberts played a recital in two disparate parts July 11 in Mendocino Music Festival’s piano series in Preston Hall.
Before 65 people Mr. Roberts planned the initial part around music of Ravel and Liszt, each with extensive descriptive titles. The pieces were preceded by a lengthy verbal introductions, set out in Mr. Roberts’ unique blend of historical description, philosophy, musical analysis and a sporadic dash of gossip. The pianist is a superb speaker, witt... more
In a high-energy program of Russian music, conductor Allan Pollack and his Festival Orchestra opened the 24th Mendocino Music Festival season in grand style July 11 in the massive white tent on the Mendocino headlands bluff.
Even before the downbeat for the Shostakovich “Festival Overture,” Op. 96, the excitement in the tent was palpable. On mounting the podium, Mr. Pollack received a standing ovation mixed with yells and whistles. Clearly the audience honors his decades of musical wo... more
Ukrainian pianist Elena Ulyanova made her Sonoma County debut June 10 in an Oakmont Concert Series recital that was conventional in repertoire but quite agitating in performance. The pieces played were nearly a reprise of her November, 2008 recital in Tiburon’s St. Hilary Church, sans the big Rachmaninoff B-Flat Sonata.
Ms. Ulyanova has a passionate musical personality and her playing in Berger Auditorium before 200 people may not have been to the taste of most piano aficionados. She ... more
For nearly 25 years the Alexander String Quartet has been the preeminent chamber music group in Northern California, but despite many invitations they have never appeared on the popular Oakmont Concert Series season. Schedule conflicts with the SRJC Chamber Series and the Quartet’s far-flung travel commitments were finally overcome May 13 when the esteemed foursome appeared on the Berger Auditorium stage before 225 chamber music aficionados.
In a concert dedicated to the memory of Lore... more
Spring thunder from sunny Italy was the order of the day April 18 when Sicilian pianist Sandro Russo closed the seventh Concerts Grand season with a dramatic recital at Santa Rosa Junior College.
In an 80-minute program before a Newman Auditorium audience of 120 Mr. Russo disdained the usual opening works of Scarlatti and Mozart and launched into a powerful rendering of Liszt’s magnificent “Variations on Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Sagen,” based on a Bach Cantata first heard in April... more
Pianist Elenor Barcsak has consistently been in the forefront of Marin musical life as a teacher, MTA branch President, supporter of manifold causes and a chamber music player, but seldom finds time to mount a solo recital. April 15 found her accepting the soloist’s role in Terra Linda’s Christ Presbyterian Church, performing a recital of some unfamiliar music and some Chopin gems.
Sponsored by the Thursday Marin Musical Club, the concert’s first half featured unfamiliar music of Franc... more
In a finale to a year of literature-based programs (“Season of the Scribe’) the Marin Symphony April 13 presented a curious mix of compositions that purported to have a common romantic theme. Preceding the sonic splendor of Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll and the “Prelude and Liebestod” from Tristan und Isolde was an eclectic first half of works by Samuel Barber and contemporary composer David Carlson, both well outside the 19th-century romantic pale.
Chopin’s bicentennial received another boost March 28 as pianist Zeynep Ucbasaran played a Newman Auditorium concert devoted mostly to the works of the great Polish master.
In the penultimate series recital in the seventh Concerts Grand season, Ms. Ucbasaran presented a program built around three of the Scherzos, with bookends of Adnan Saygun’s Aksak Studies one through five, and a Liszt paraphrase. The richly chromatic Polonaise-Fantaisie, Op. 61, from late in Chopin’s short life, wa... more
Marin pianist Kenn Gartner takes his musical life in big chunks. He has a large load of private students, conducts choral groups, is part of a South Bay opera company and composes when time permits. On Bach’s birthday, March 21, he found time to tackle a large recital program at San Rafael’s JB Piano Company as part of the Concerts Grand series. He even brought his own piano to the store’s small stage.
It was fitting to begin with Bach’s “Concerto in the Italian Style,” BWV 971, and ... more
Nina Tichman is a pianist with an artistic vision that puts clarity and proportion above all else. In her Oakmont Concert Series recital March 10, one of many she has played in Berger Auditorium, these sterling qualities perfectly served the concert’s opening music of Schubert, in this case the E Flat Sonata from 1817, D. 568.
Ms. Tichman’s subtle phrasing and nuanced cantabile, added to the bright treble of the piano, caught inimitably the wistful nature of the opening movement. Da... more
It’s seldom that the high points of a piano recital are contained in repertoire that is short, dissonant, unfamiliar and mostly loud. At Lydia Artymiw’s March 7 recital for Concerts Grand in SRJC’s Newman Auditorium, the music of Kurtag and Messiaen had for this reviewer emotional impact far beyond their succinct duration and novel rhythms
Before a small audience of 63, Ms. Artymiw preceded the performance of three of Messiaen’s Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant Jésus with a cogent an... more
In a sharp change from past concerts, the Trio Navarro gave an abbreviated program Feb. 28 in Sonoma State University’s Ives Hall, reflecting a temporary substitution in personnel. Marilyn Thompson, the Trio’s founding pianist, was absent due to pending shoulder surgery, and the anticipated trios of Cassadó and Catoire could not be managed in the available rehearsal time. What was presented was a blend of some familiar works and something quite rare.
Ukrainian-American virtuoso Valentina Lisitsa came to her Feb. 21 Santa Rosa recital carrying the fame of a massive YouTube video presence and as among the handful of the most popular woman pianists on the international scene. Whether she is among the best remained to be seen and heard.
Performing for the Concerts Grand series in SRJC’s Newman Auditorium, Ms. Lisitsa took on a program of staggering breadth – Schumann’s “Kinderscenen,” the Appassionata Sonata of Beethoven and the entire... more
Recitals entirely devoted to the works of Chopin are not rare, and the 200th anniversary of the great Pole’s birth has already spawned world-wide concerts of his music and for memorializing his artistry. What was basically new in pianist Gustavo Romero’s Oakmont (Feb. 18) and SRJC (Feb. 19) recitals was how he structured the program. The four tumultuous Ballades (Ops. 23, 39, 47 and 52) didn’t constitute the second half, and the Ballades were not played in the usual order. Though the two rec... more
In the fifth set of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts in the current season, conductor Bruno Ferrandis programmed a world premiere and ended with a familiar Schumann symphony. In between were Chopin’s F Minor Piano Concerto, Op. 21, with soloist Berenika Zakrzewski, and Schumann's "Manfred" overture.
Berhzad Ranjbaran’s “Mithra” was the premiere, part of the Magnum Opus series of new works commissioned by a Silicon Valley philanthropist and played subsequently by three Bay Area orchestras. I... more
Conductor Asher Raboy, in his final season with the Napa Valley Symphony, has established in a 20-year tenure a responsive orchestral sound and an interest in large and crowd-pleasing works. During a Jan. 31 concert in Yountville’s Lincoln Theater, Mr. Raboy had the opportunity to shine in two massive Russian pieces from two disparate composers.
Ukrainian-American pianist Valentina Lisitsa was the soloist in Tchaikovsky’s B-Flat Piano Concerto, Op. 23, and in the opening Allegro non... more
Innovative but not necessarily exciting programming characterized the Kirkwood Piano Quartet’s Jan. 14 performance in Oakmont’s Berger Auditorium.
Unfamiliar works were perhaps the reason for an audience count far less than the usual Oakmont Concerts Series event, and the Kirkwood played a first half of rarely-heard music: Bridge’s one-movement “Phantasy” and a Stanford Quartet in F Major, Op. 15. The dreamy Bridge, from 1911, has many contrasting sections with echoes of late Faure.... more
Marin pianist John Boyajy can’t be neutral about any important musical matter. He has passion and the ability to speak extensive words about that passion, and his excitement about Schubert, Bach and Mozart was everywhere in evidence in a duo recital with soprano Bryn Jimenez Jan. 3 in Novato’s All Saints Lutheran Church. Fifty-Five attended on a gloomy and cold day
Beginning with Schubert’s B-Flat Impromptu from Op. 142, Mr. Boyajy set the afternoon’s stage with a reading replete wit... more
After many decades of attending concerts, a listener (or reviewer) faces a tough decision after hearing a first half that in some way is not a complete artistic whole. Leave early or stay for the promising second part? In almost every case not hearing the music that follows intermission would be a mistake. It was thus at the College of Marin (COM) Symphony Orchestra’s concert Nov. 22 at Unity Church on the old Hamilton Air Force Base.
Just two works comprised the program, the fi... more
Sacramento State’s Richard Cionco followed a string of CSU faculty pianists into the Concerts Grand recital series Nov. 15, playing a concert that featured eclectic music rarely heard in the North Bay. Mr. Cionco’s breezy stage presence and audience repartee belied the complexity of the music, and he consistently delivered the goods to a small group in SRJC’s Newman Auditorium
The cornerstone of the recital was the 28-minute “American Variations” by New York composer Sunny Knable, in it... more
Anticipation was in the warm air Sept. 20 in Santa Rosa’s Newman Auditorium. In addition to being the first Concerts Grand Series recital of the year, there was excitement surrounding the Armenian pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, making her Northern California debut amid extravagant press notices and comparisons with such artists as the young Alicia de Larrocha.
Beginning with Mendelssohn’s best work for piano, the Op. 54 Variations Serieuses, Ms. Arghamanyan stated the theme slowl... more
Planning and performing an All-Russian program is not a hard task as long as a solo pianist is the executant. The Slavic keyboard literature, even excluding the 19th Century, is vast, and Russian expatriate Olga Vinokur dipped into the works of five notable Russians in her Sept. 10 Oakmont Concert Series recital. Ms. Vinokur, a New York resident by way of early years in Russia and studies in Israel, gave a committed but largely low-key concert for 200 attendees in Berger Auditorium.
Now in its 23rd season, the Mendocino Music Festival has a reputation for combining innovative crossover programming with the delights of summer on the North Coast – ocean breezes, warm morning fog, Victorian village flower gardens and memorable cuisine. For Roy Malan’s violin recital of July 15, the program was a little novel and a little conventional, but the artistry was first cabin.
Joined at the piano by Stanford University faculty member Kumaran Arul, Mr. Malan’s usual efferves... more
California Summer Music is a musician’s workshop, rotating between college campuses that put young players in small classes with masters of their respective instruments. Sonoma State University is hosting the 2009 event for three weeks in July, and the CSM faculty had a chance July 5 to show the troops how strings and a piano can sing, albeit with non-traditional compositions.
Before 125 avid listeners in the Fred Warren Auditorium, string and piano performers played a concert consist... more
When does the local concert season actually end? Well, it usually is just before July 1, and it’s usually a hot day. Both benchmarks were satisfied June 28 when Santa Rosa’s Numina Center produced the last concert of the 2009 season, a chamber pot pourri, before 125 appreciative listeners.
Copland’s “As It Fell Upon A Day”, a c. 1923 bagatelle for clarinet, flute and soprano, began the program with insouciant flair. Joined by Santa Rosa Symphony musicians Roy Zajac (clarinet... more
It’s not often that listeners have a chance to hear what arguably is the best work in a single classical genre, especially a concerto. On May 29, the Napa Valley Symphony offered just such an opportunity in Yountville’s Lincoln Theater when they performed the magnificent Dvorak Cello Concerto with veteran soloist Lynn Harrell.
Cello aficionados looking for a performance similar to Yo Yo Ma’s lyrical flights or Rostropovich’s magisterial intensity would have been disappointed, as Harrell... more
Season-ending chamber music concerts, especially in the spring, often feature repertoire of a less-demanding nature, light as May breezes. The Trio Navarro would have none of that at their May 17 concert, programming two massive piano quartets, both demanding focus and stamina from the performers and the 60 listeners in Sonoma State’s Ives Hall.
Adding the wonderful violist Nancy Ellis to their longstanding ensemble, the Navarro plunged first into the Piano Quartet of William Walton, wr... more
Gila Goldstein isn’t a household name in North Bay music, but as a visiting virtuoso the New York resident has played here a lot: three recitals in San Francisco’s Old First Church series, another in a stately Marin hilltop home, one for Concerts Grand, and at least one Sonoma County home concert. May 14 found her at the Oakmont Concert Series’ Berger Auditorium, her third recital there, with a varied program of virtuoso works for the piano.
Goldstein, trained in her native Israel and a... more
Aaron Copland’s orchestral scores are so familiar as to seem old-shoe, even when his not-so-familiar Third Symphony dominates a program. Such was the case May 5 when the Marin Symphony performed an all-Copland concert in the Civic Auditorium in San Rafael.
The novel part of the program was at the podium, where seasoned East Bay conductor Michael Morgan substituted for the symphony’s ailing music director, Alasdair Neale. Nothing in the “Hoedown” from Rodeo or in the perennially s... more
Pianist David Korevaar brought a curiously unbalanced program to the Santa Rosa Junior College Chamber Series on March 27 for the SRJC season’s final event. Unbalanced because the first half consisted of essentially unknown works, whereas the second half consisted of Schubert’s most popular piano sonata.
Korevaar, who teaches at the University of Colorado, began his recital in the half-full Newman Auditorium with Brahms’s Variations on a Hungarian Song, Op. 21, No. 2. A master of... more
The odds for a successful piano recital didn’t look good. It was an unknown pianist from Russia via the University of Arkansas, playing for a new production company in the little-used small hall at the Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa — on a 110-year-old Henry Miller piano. Despite these long odds, Jura Margulis played an intriguing if not wholly satisfying concert on March 10 in front of 30 appreciative listeners.
Margulis played the opening Chopin Mazurkas (Ops. 30, Nos. 3 and 4) aggressiv... more
After a week of rain, a “mostly Schubert” concert on March 8 in Santa Rosa’s Friedman Center was a welcome blue-sky tonic. As the Russian virtuoso Anton Rubinstein once said, “Ah, Schubert, sunshine in music.”
Produced by Absolute Music, the concert honored founders Alfred and Susanne Batzdorff on their 65th wedding anniversary, and the 150 attending came to applaud the ever-young couple and sample some of the Viennese composer’s best works for small ensemble.
Having a third piano trio resident in the North Bay along with the Navarro and Tilden trios is a joyous prospect, as each will provide varied aural perspectives on the rich trio literature. The newest group, the Sequoia, played on March 5 in the cozy Great Room of Santa Rosa’s Spring Lake Village before 75 attentive listeners.
Joining pianist Florence Aquilina and violinist Gary McLaughlin, both SRJC faculty members, was Santa Rosa cellist Laura McClellan, whose sonorous instrument was ... more
People attending pianist Elena Kuschnerova’s March 1 Newman Auditorium concert came with anticipation of a challenging afternoon, as the Russian’s presence on YouTube and a comprehensive website disclosed a wide range of repertoire and powerful command of the instrument. I don’t believe anyone was disappointed.
Part of the Concerts Grand series, the recital’s first section was all German, appropriate as Kuschnerova lives in Baden Baden, and it’s the 200th anniversary of the birth of Fel... more
Concerts featuring two pianos have been on the upswing in Sonoma County, due mainly to the work of the Twenty Fingers Club, a group of well-trained amateurs devoted to conventional and arcane repertoire for 176 keys and six pedals. Club members don’t perform as often as they would like, as two-piano venues are rare.
The Sebastopol Center for the Arts solved the venue problem with a February Two-Piano Festival, bringing in a second instrument for five concerts and a gaggle of performers... more
Reactions from listeners to the music of Philip Glass usually are of two types. One group flees quickly from the hall and concludes that Glass is a mere shadow of the greater minimalist composers Reich, Adams and Riley. Others, with more patience and curiosity, give the music time to unfold and, especially in Glass’s operas, uncover sonic gems.
In the Napa Opera House on Feb. 19, Glass played a 90-minute recital of his music at the piano. A full house of 500 greeted the composer, who an... more
Russian pianist Halida Dinova returned to familiar territory on Feb. 12 — the recital stage at San Rafael’s JB Piano Emporium — and produced a concert short on major repertoire works but long on charm and drama. The small audience well knew what would be forthcoming: an evening of virtuoso playing, the best post-recital reception in Marin and a collegial atmosphere of shared musical delight.
The evening’s single work of extended duration, Haydn’s E-Flat Sonata (XVI 52), received a leisu... more
The Russian pianist Dmitry Rachmanov is a careful and attentive player with ample power when needed, and he brought these qualities to a Super Bowl-day audience Feb. 1 at SRJC’s Forsyth Hall. Though the repertoire was a little conventional, the performances were probing and memorable.
In several ways the opening work, Beethoven’s Variations in F, Op. 34, was the most finished presentation of the afternoon, the fifth recital in the current Concerts Grand season. All was in place – rhythm... more
Marin pianist Ken Iisaka has been getting around lately, playing frequent concerts, competing in high-level competitions, writing about music and investigating rare repertoire that incites new interest. But he is seldom heard in a formal winter recital setting, with a good piano, and with somewhat standard compositions. The oversight was remedied January 25 when he presented four big works at San Rafael’s JB Piano Emporium under the auspices of the Concerts Grand piano series.
Sonoma County has a long and cordial history of music in private homes, the most prominent examples being the many events in Corrick and Norma Brown’s living room, and the monthly jazz concerts in Ernie Shelton’s Sebastopol home. Now the local chapter of the Music Teacher’s Association of California has inaugurated a fund-raising house concert series, which launched on Jan. 18 in a recital by pianist Peggy Nance in a Santa Rosa home.
Nance, a specialist in French music, programmed three... more
Violinist Philippe Quint’s third appearance on the Santa Rosa Concert Association stage Jan. 11 was indeed the charm, easily surpassing his two previous recitals in the Wells Fargo Center. He displayed both consummate virtuosity and audience appeal.
In a program divided equally between familiar classical works and arcane selections, Quint and pianist Dmitry Cogan were an ideal pair, opening with an amiable reading of Mozart’s E Minor Sonata, K. 304. Good balance was the order of the da... more
Many components go into a fine piano recital — the artist’s technique, rhythmic control, range of tonal colors, choice of repertoire, and even stamina. All can combine to make a first-rate performance. But in recent local recitals, a key part for listeners — the aspect of being thrilled — has gone missing. Not so for Bay Area hero Jon Nakamatsu, who provided thrills across the musical spectrum on Nov. 30 in a sensational Newman Auditorium recital for the Concerts Grand series in Santa Rosa.
In the annual Randolph Newman recital at SRJC Nov. 21, pianist Barbara Nissman played a long and intensive concert with two monumental sonatas at the core, Prokofiev’s Sixth and the Liszt B Minor. Everything else on the program, heard by an almost full house in Newman Auditorium, seemed a little beside the point when Nissman charged headlong into these two pillars of pianistic drama, composed about 100 years apart.
Beginning with short but illuminating remarks to the audience, Nissman ... more
A pianist planning a West Coast debut recital in front of a fashionable and cosmopolitan audience faces a daunting prospect, especially when playing virtuoso works familiar to all. Ukrainian pianist Elena Ulyanova surmounted most of these obstacles Nov. 14 with formidable energy at Tiburon’s St. Hilary Church. The event was the second Concerts Grand recital of the year and part of the wildly popular classical series produced by St. Hilary Music Director Vince Stadlin and Cantor Kenneth Graham.
Trio Navarro, Sonoma State’s resident ensemble, played the second of their season’s four concerts on Nov. 9 in Ives Hall, juxtaposing three rarely heard works of disparate length and impact.
The concert began with Rachmaninoff’s early G Minor Trio (“Elegiaque”), composed in 1892, long before the more revered works in the composer’s canon. The composition received a full-throated reading, with proper references to the Tchaikovsky Trio of a decade earlier and a wonderful cello line from J... more
The proverbial “no person is a hero in their own backyard” was certainly false Nov. 2 when pianist Elena Casanova attracted the largest solo classical audience in memory to her Mendocino College recital, launching the sixth Concerts Grand season.
Before 210 partisans in Center Theater, Casanova tackled an eclectic program centered on Beethoven and Latin music, with a quick side trip for two dreamy Liszt works. The Third Consolation, performed before the Third Liebestraume, brought from... more
It’s a flood tide for piano trios in the North Bay. For years SSU’s Trio Navarro has given numerous wonderful concerts, and recently the Tilden Trio (San Rafael) and the fledgling Sequoia Trio (Santa Rosa) have entered the fray. October 16 found a travelling troupe, Chicago’s Lincoln Trio, proving again the viability of the classical combination of piano, violin and cello.
Before an Oakmont Concerts Series of 200, the Lincoln began with Mendelssohn, but not the most popular of trios, th... more
An old business axiom has it that “ten years means a career,” and with the American Philharmonic Sonoma County making that anniversary, the tenth’s season first concerts October 11 and 12 brought more than the usual anticipation. This orchestra, which began in Cotati, has overcome manifold hurdles to become a formidable musical force in the North Bay.
A season-launching concert should open with something special, and Stephen Main’s “Overture for a New America” had a decidedly populist,... more
Pianist Kenn Gartner is not an artist who makes small statements. In his Aug. 31 recital with soprano Margo-Sherelle Alexander at Guerneville’s Russian River Conservatory, he produced lots of disparate sound, including enough volume to compete with the Labor Day Weekend celebrations at adjacent properties.
Produced by Conservatory Director Seth Montfort, the concert was a warm-up for Gartner and Alexander’s upcoming appearance in San Francisco’s Herbst Theater. The duo’s program, presen... more
Seth Montfort’s Russian River Conservatory seems to have a lock on classical music premieres for the North Bay and Sonoma County, with nearly every concert in his Guerneville mortuary-turned–concert-hall bringing arcane repertoire to small but knowledgeable audiences. Concerts produced by Seth are adventures.
Rimsky-Korsakov’s Piano Concerto in C Sharp was the featured work on Sept. 21, with Montfort at the Conservatory piano and Gabriel Sakakeeny conducting the Mortuary Orchestra of Gu... more
Joel Fan is a pianist on the move. On August 14, in his second Oakmont Concert Series performance in the past three years, he commanded the stage with boundless energy and gave an eclectic program heavy on thunder and excitement.
His concert was billed as music from North and South America, but somehow Beethoven's A-Flat Major Sonata, Op. 110, was squeezed in to end the first half, and it received a committed performance, full of nuance and occasional mystery. The opening Moderato Canta... more
Antonio Iturrioz may not be a familiar name in local classical music households, but he has quietly become the most active solo pianist in the North Bay. He also seems to be intrigued by rarely performed virtuoso music—works other pianists avoid at every turn—and he is a scholar of Leopold Godowsky’s life and art.
July 13 found Iturrioz playing a benefit for Restorative Justice, a support group in the criminal detention system, in a dormitory at Santa Rosa’s Ursuline High School. Ninety... more
Classical music in the North Bay has lately been blessed by a number of piano trio concerts, including Roy Bogas’ Trio (Gualala Arts Center), Eric Zivian’s Trio (Occidental Chamber Series), the Sequoia Trio from SRJC and of course the preeminent Trio Navarro from Sonoma State. The Tilden Trio, the newest kids on the block, made an auspicious entrance July 10 at Oakmont and quickly demonstrated they belong at the top of their profession.
Formed in 2004 by former Juilliard classmates, the... more
On paper, the closing concert of the Tiburon Music Festival June 28 seemed a chancy venture. Two well-known piano concertos were to be performed with a soloist and an orchestra of just five string players. No winds, brass or percussion, no weight in the sections to produce mighty sound to honor the mighty Haydn and Beethoven.
The musical results? Impressive, convincing in their own way, but giving no great desire to displace the originals.
Launching a fledgling music festival with two contemporary chamber operas is a little unusual, but the opening Tiburon Music Festival concert June 21 was a successful if not quite memorable event. Before 100 people in Tiburon's classy St. Hilary Church's Parish Hall, operas by Marin-based composers Ron McFarland and Vincent Stadlin were given, the latter a world premiere, with a repeat performance June 27 at 7:30 p.m. The Festival, directed by College of Marin faculty member Paul Smith, will f... more
Sonoma's Classical Music Society closed its fourth season May 30 with a program partly piano recital and partly chamber music.
Presented to 80 people in Sonoma's Burlingame Hall, cellist Tanya Tomkins joined pianist Elizabeth Dorman in Beethoven's flamboyant A Major Sonata, Op. 69, comprising the entire second half. Both artists had an exuberant view of the score and the cello sound in the hall was distinct and warm. Ms. Tomkins needed all the sound she could muster because balance p... more
It was business as usual for the Trio Navarro on May 25, as they closed their season with a splendid concert for a small audience in Sonoma State's Ives 119 hall.
The Navarro programmed two popular piano trios with a less-familiar Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel work, the Op. 11 Trio in D Minor. As cellist Joy Rachuy Brindel remarked, all three trios were in D minor, and all ended in D Major.
The Mendelssohn-Hensel Trio is a dramatic work, restless and assertive, and full of Mendelss... more
Season finales for orchestras seem always to be memorable events, and the American Philharmonic Sonoma County concert on May 18 was no exception. Before an audience of 900 at the Wells Fargo Center, the county's 'other' orchestra provided a rousing ending to an adventuresome season.
How adventuresome' In earlier concerts this season, this orchestra of mainly non-professional performers played Stravinsky's 'Rite of Spring' and Scriabin's 'Poem of Ecstasy.' Sunday's menu, aimed at young a... more
The young Polish pianist Rafael Blechacz arrived May 8 at the Oakmont Concerts Series with quite a bit of musical baggage, including winning the 2005 Chopin Competition (the same competition that launched Garrick Ohlsson's career in 1974) and playing on several ubiquitous You Tube snippets. He was touring the Bay Area, and his debut here was eagerly anticipated by a large crowd, including many pianists, in Berger Auditorium.
Blechacz didn't disappoint with his initial offering, Mozart's... more
During the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s June 17-24 Costa Rica tour, three concerts were played, with the titular event being the splendid June 19 concert in San José’s Teatro Nationál. This seminal concert was the featured review on the Internet at Classical Sonoma.
However, the two concerts in provincial towns were in many ways more packed with non-musical excitement. On the day of the concert in the Paraiso Cathedral the entire group stopped at the Cachi Music School for an imp... more
Nearly a decade ago the Sonoma County Philharmonic took a concert and cultural tour of China, led by its founder and then conductor Gabe Sakakeeny. Many of the participants described the eight days as logistically challenging and arduous, but also artistically successful.
The So Co Phil tours again June 16 -25, this time to Costa Rica with three concerts, local musical education and exploration of the country’s rich environmental and cultural sites. Ninety-seven musicians, volunteers ... more
Long-time Sonoma and Mendocino County music aficionado Jack Power died May 11, at age 73. Details on the cause of death and where he died were not available as of July 1.
Jack was known to friends as the best pianist among surgeons, or the best surgeon among pianists. He never lost an opportunity at the end of house concerts or at medical industry conventions to play the available instrument, and specialized in Latin American music and Argentinian “milongas.”
Northern California’s grand signor of music criticism, Robert Commanday, died Sept. 3 in his Oakland home. He was 93.
Best remembered for 30 years as the San Francisco Chronicle’s critic, Mr. Commanday with visionary success founded in 1993 an online music service, San Francisco Classical Voice, which survives him. SFCV was the model in 2004 for the Internet’s North Bay Classical Music which developed into the current Classical Sonoma. Known widely for his choral conduc... more
In a flurry of surprise announcements, Zarin Mehta has been named Executive Director of the Green Music Center complex at Sonoma State University.
Mehta, 75, was for 12 years the Executive Director of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, and in Sonoma Country media and the New York Times said “it’s the opportunity to create a public, to create culture. I will be there as long as it takes to make this thing a huge success, because the people merit it.
Long time Sonoma County musician Carolyn Wiester died Feb. 3 in Rohnert Park after a year-long struggle with cancer.
Ms. Wiester was closely associated with activities of the Redwood Chapter of the American Guild of Organists and was a past Dean of the Organization. She was also a pianist noted for her Bach interpretations and taught extensively in her Santa Rosa studio before moving in 2010 to Rohnert Park. Ms. Wiester was a recognized scholar of church music.
Five performances of Sonoma State University’s two-opera production, Haydn’s “Deserted Island” and Vaughn Williams’ “Riders to the Sea,” are scheduled for mid February in the University’s Person Theater.
Dates are Feb. 13 at 1 p.m. (performance with piano replacing the orchestra) and at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 14, 15, 16 and 17.
Additional information of soloists and a review of the opening night’s performance are at Classical Sonoma.
The virtuoso French organist Sophie-Véronique Cauchefer-Choplin gave a master class Oct. 20 in Santa Rosa’s Resurrection Parish, associated with her recital in the same venue the following afternoon.
Peter Duranceau, prepared by local organist David Parsons, worked with Ms. Cauchefer-Choplin on Vierne’s Arabesque (Pièces en style libre), Clérambault’s Duo (Second Suite) and Noëls by J. F. Dandrieu.
In the photo above the artist (left) is shown with Peter Duranceau, Julie Duranc... more
With all the news revolving around the opening of the Green Music Center, another exciting new building for music has seemingly slipped under the cultural radar. The Sebastopol Center for the Arts is moving to a larger facility, the County Veteran’s Building on High Street in Sebastopol. A festive ribbon cutting is set for Dec. 7.
Opening doors in 1988 and subsequently in several Sebastopol locations including the present remodeled warehouse on Depot Street, the Center's move to the... more
After 20 seasons of producing classical chamber music programs, the Russian River Chamber Music Society has suspended concerts for the coming 2012-2013 season.
Founder and Artistic Director Gary McLaughlin announced that the Board of Directors, headed by President Richard Kagel, is considering several performance and funding models in anticipation of again producing small-group chamber music late 2013.
Russian River Chamber Music produced four to six events each season in sever... more
Marin’s Music Chest’s 2012 winners were announced April 19 and each will perform May 6 at 12:30 p..m. in San Domenico’s School Auditorium. The School is at 1500 Butterfield Rd., San Anselmo, CA 94960. Pictured above are the winners: Front Row (l to r) Stephanie Oh, Chloe Fung, Hallie Jo Gist, Katarina Lee, Jeremy Goldwasser and Max Smiley. In the Back Row (l to r) are Laura Arthur, Colin Wells, Kuni Migimatsu, Kenji Bellavigna and Caitlin Gowdy. Not in the photo were R. J. Pearce and Hayaka... more
Winners for the 2012 Etude Competition have been announced after April 1 auditions in Santa Rosa Junior College’s Forsyth Hall.
Continuing a long tradition and originally sponsored by the Santa Rosa Etude Club, the Competition is now independent and managed by Director Peggy Nance. The Santa Rosa Optimist Club is the current and helpful sponsor. The Competition included young musicians in four counties in four divisions, and a formal recital for the winners is set for Saturday, Apri... more
This article is the first in a series concerning the coming SRS season’s seven sets of concerts and an opening gala.
A new concert hall and an old orchestra are not strange bedfellows, as witness the Santa Rosa Symphony, which will play its first formal Weill Hall concert at Sonoma State University’s Green Music Center on Sept. 30. Known as the preeminent regional orchestra in the west, the SRS is an excellent fit for the palatial Weill and its vaunted, but yet to be fully teste... more
Recently the Santa Rosa Symphony announced its inaugural Green Music Center calendar with a daunting schedule of seven sets of concerts, each program having a snazzy title and seemingly designed to showcase the acoustics of the 1,400-seat Weill Hall. The 2012-13 season, the Orchestra’s 84th, presents a number of unique challenges for the Symphony and its conductor since 2006, Bruno Ferrandis. A complete season schedule can be found on the Symphony’s website (www.santarosasymphony.com) or by call... more
Sonoma County’s preeminent organization of teachers of singing, the Redwood Empire Chapter of NATS (National Association of Teachers of Singing) held their annual recital Oct. 29 at Santa Rosa’s First United Methodist Church. The fund-raising event supports the spring scholarship auditions for local singers.
In a program titled High Tea and High C’s, 14 teachers held the stage vocally both during and after an exceptionally varied group of novel teas and exotic sandwiches were ... more
Announcing its 59th year, the Marin Symphony has set five pairs of concerts for the 2011-2012 season spotlighting an eclectic array of works, beginning with an all-Tchaikovsky event October 2 and 4.
Conducted by Alasdair Neale in his tenth year in Marin, Tchaikovsky’s Capriccio Italien will be followed with the B Flat Piano Concerto with soloist Orion Weiss. Two overtures complete the popular program, the Romeo and Juliet Fantasy and the 1812. The Tchaikovsky First is the most popular... more
Ukiah’s innovative Symphony announced its 2011-2012 season May 27, a season of rich variety and featuring new groups of mostly local soloists in Mendocino College’s Center Theater.
Under the baton of veteran conductor Les Pfutzenreuter, four classical music concerts have individual themes, leading off with the Best of the Baroque Sept. 17 and 18. Featured Symphony performers include violinists Margie Rice and Holly Fagan in Bach’s Double Concerto and Jeff Ives soloing in Telemann’s Vi... more
Celebrating its new 79th season, the Napa Valley Symphony will present seven single concerts, all on Sundays, in Yountville’s Lincoln Theater Napa Valley with a series of guest conductors.
Made in Napa is the season’s theme and features three compositions by composers of the greater Napa community. This is a rarity for North Bay orchestras, and one work is by NVS Executive Director Richard Aldag. The CEO of an orchestra writing a big work for an orchestra!
Santa Rosa pianist Gail Embree recorded May 5 Schumann's multi-part Carnaval, Op. 9, and the CD has just been released.
One of Schumann's most popular and demanding works, Carnaval has been a favorite of virutosi since its composition in 1835, and has been played in the North Bay Concerts Grand series in the past four years by Dmitri Rachmanov, Jon Nakamatsu and Nareh Arghamanyan.
Ms. Embree moved to Santa Rosa in 2009 from Santa Barbara where she had an active teaching and p... more
Cellist Chris Jennings, 44-year veteran of the Marin Symphony, retired from the orchestra at the season-concluding concerts May 1 and 3 at the Marin Center in San Rafael.
Joining in 1967 after auditioning, Ms. Jennings and the Symphony were then playing to audience members seated in bleachers in a local high school. Current Musical Director Alasdair Neale officiated at the ceremonies honoring the sterling musical services of Ms. Jennings.
The Marin Music Chest, a 78-year old organization which presents annual scholarships to Marin County students studying classical music, has announced its 2011 scholarship award winners and two May concerts featuring solo performances by each student musician. Scholarships of $800 each were awarded to junior musicians ages 10 to 13. Scholarships of $1,200 each were awarded to senior musicians ages 14 to 19.
The 2011 prize winners are Kenji Bellavigna (clarinet), Stephanie Oh (violi... more
The North Bay’s Etude Competition auditions produced 13 winners April 10 in a spirited event at SRJC’s Newman Auditorium. Musicians ages 11 through 18 participated.
Sponsored by generous contributions by the Optimist Club and directed by pianist Peggy Nance, the Etude Competition is the premier event of its type in the North Bay, and young musicians from four counties competed. The thirteen winners will perform April 17 at 3 p.m., again in the intimate Newman Auditorium, and there is... more
The Santa Rosa Symphony has announced a Summer Music Academy at the Sonoma Country Day School July 11 through July 29.
Comprising workshops for individual instruments and ensembles for string, woodwinds, brass and percussion, the Academy’s early bird discount deadline is April 15. The deadline for financial aid is June 1, and tuition ranges from $285 to $390. The final performances will be Saturday, July 30.
The Santa Rosa Symphony has complete details at 546-8742
After years of moribund fund raising and uncertainty about the future, the Green Music Center at Rohnert Park’s Sonoma State University appears to be closer to finally opening.
New York banker, financier and philanthropist Sanford Weill, a recent purchaser of a lavish Sonoma County estate, donated $12,000,000 March 22 to the Center which had been plagued by massive cost overruns and questionable management since planning began in 1998 and construction bids let in 2003. Mr. Weill has ... more
Long-time Sonoma County musical figure harry Fry died March 8 at his Oakmont home. He was 84 and suffered from cancer.
Mr. Fry was born in Sheffield. England, and graduated in physics from Sheffield University. In World War II he was involved in war-related industrial research and in the late 1960s moved to Utah and Lubbock, Texas, becoming active in both places in radio broadcasting and in singing groups. He was a bassoon player but his first love was the choral literature, and was ... more
Marin’s Music Chest has launched its annual scholarship audition program to provide financial assistance to support Marin County students studying classical music.
Students in woodwinds, brass, string instruments, piano, percussion and voice are encouraged to apply. Applicants must be Marin County residents for a minimum of two years, and have at least two years of study prior to the audition.
Scholarships of $800 are available for each division in the Juniors, and the applica... more
First information from the American Philharmonic’s trip to China, sent by trumpet player Philip Beard:
From December 28 – how is the trip? “The trip is exhausting but fun. Three concerts under our belts so far, at Dalian, Taizhou and today in this incredible performance hall called the ‘Oriental Cultural Center’ in Shanghai. Not huge crowds but respectable and very appreciative.
We are all hammered. Jet lag plus 5 a.m. wake up calls to make 7:30 a.m. flights is difficult.... more
North Coast music lovers mourn the loss of Nina Elizabeth Shuman, who died peacefully in her home Dec. 12 after a 30-month battle with cancer.
Born April 27, 1954, in New York City, Ms. Shuman was surrounded by music and art from childhood summers in Santa Barbara, where her father, Davis Shuman, a trombonist and faculty member of The Juilliard School, taught at the Music Academy of the West. Her mother, Shirley, was an artist, and her brother, Mark, is a cellist with the New York City ... more
Corricks, Santa Rosa’s unique downtown store, is celebrating its 95th anniversary with weekend musicales and exceptional art in November and the first week of December.
Hosted by store President Kevin Brown, the events will run from Nov. 13 to December 5, Saturdays and Sundays, noon to 2 p.m. In addition to the piano playing on the west mezzanine, other instruments and singers will be featured. There is no cost and the ambiance of Christmas gifts in the wonderfully-decorated store ... more
One of Sonoma County’s most stalwart music fans, H. G. (Jim) Burns, died in Santa Rosa July 6 from cancer after a year-long.
Born June 2, 1918, in Los Angeles, Jim taught psychology at Los Angeles City College for 30 years prior to moving to Santa Rosa in 1995. Blinded by glaucoma at five, Jim had a life-long devotion to the piano and played his Steinway M in his west Santa Rosa mobile home through retirement with any partner available in four-hand music, specializing in Schubert, jazz... more
Olga Samaroff is a forgotten name in the pantheon of pianists, but in the first two decades of the twentieth century, she was among a small and select group of great women concert artists, including Sophie Menter, Teresa Carreño, Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler, Adele Aus de Ohe and Julie Rivé-King.
Born in San Antonio with the name Lucy Hickenlooper, Samaroff played the standard repertoire to perfection and only began to step out of the virtuoso spotlight when she married the flamboyant con... more
To my memory Alicia de Larrocha played only once in Sonoma County, a cold Sunday afternoon in 1969 in the Santa Rosa High School auditorium. The local piano wasn’t adequate and a concert instrument was sent from San Francisco. The Sonoma State faculty pianist of the time, Steve Cosgove, was wild with anticipation of her coming to this (then) small town. Her Rachmaninoff Preludes, comprising most of the second half of the standing-room only recital, still resounds in memory. The octaves of th... more
Solo piano recitals in the Santa Rosa area have had an inauspicious history. In fact, there really wasn’t much of a solo piano season in the past. The SRJC Chamber Concerts series would usually feature only one high-caliber pianist each year in its special Randolph Newman concert, including such luminaries as Earl Wild, Jean Philippe Collard, and Marc-Andre Hamelin. Meanwhile, the Santa Rosa Symphony and Corrick and Norma Brown brought pianists with international reputations to the Santa Rosa Hi... more
An orchestra's announcement of the coming season's programs is a propitious time for reflection. Are there repertoire trends with a new conductor? Why has a particular soloist been selected? Will the Shostakovich Fourth ever be programmed? Can more choral works be heard?
The Santa Rosa Symphony's 2008-2009 season brochure provides some welcome answers.
A new season can't open without a gala, and this one comes on Sunday, Sept. 21, at the Jackson Theater, preceded by a Vintner... more
Steve Osborn certainly heard playing in Shaham's Bach where the tempos were extra fast. Yes, no grass grew under the virtuoso's bow. Perhaps on this night in Weill the violinist's mood demanded speed in phrases and didn't pay attention to the long line? He has just recorded the six pieces, so the CD will provide the proof about what Shaham thinks is his Bach statement. Fritz Ernst
Even the 1 1/2 hour drive in mad holiday traffic and avoiding a hair raising traffic accident didn't prevent us from experiencing the charm and spirit of Beth Zucchino's holiday organ recital. The creative program was combined with the perfect ambiance for the Bach and Boely (likely a California premiere) and also showed the organ at its best. Beth chose registrations that were perfect for the early music and the Boely especially was fluidly played. But most important, Beth projected her love of the music. Jean Alexis Smith
Steve Osborn caught perfectly the tenor of the SRS concert, and how Ms. Lisitsa connects with an audience. At the Monday night event she played with great flair, and in the Totentanz, abandon. In the "Minute Waltz" encore she added two notes at the end, for the left hand, a charming touch. The E Flat Concerto was good without being great, and the Totentanz resounding. Her accurate contrary motion skips were a delight to watch. Benno Cortot, Santa Rosa
Steve - your article looks good on the screen.
Yes, let's doan update in the near future on a handful of additional halls. It;'s a service to readers that the halls, as well as the programs, are examined and discussed. TM