Terry McNeill has produced piano recitals for eight 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 Ignace Paderewski and Jorge Bolet. He resides in Santa Rosa, CA, and is an editor and a music critic for Classical Sonoma.
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
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
Sponsored by the Santa Rosa Optimist Club, the Etude Competition is scheduling its auditions for the 2011 contest April 10 at Santa Rosa Junior College’s Forsyth Hall. Categories include piano, strings and woodwinds (senior and junior) and voice (seniors only).
Ages for the senior division are 14 to 18 and juniors are 11 to 13. Student musicians must reside in Napa, Lake, Sonoma or Mendocino Counties. Awards are (seniors) $500 for first place, $300 for second and $100 for third. Jun... 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
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
Concerts Grand House Recitals
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
3:00 PM - Mill Valley Details editdelete
CHORAL AND VOCAL
Sonoma Bach Choir, Circa 1600, Live Oak Baroque Orchestra
Friday, May 31, 2013
8:00 PM - Santa Rosa Details editdelete
CHORAL AND VOCAL
California Redwood Chorale
Friday, May 31, 2013
8:00 PM - Petaluma Details editdelete