Home  Reviews  Articles  Calendar  Presenters  Add Event     
Chamber
SPARKLING WIND, STRING, HARP MUSIC AT DEVON HOUSE GARDEN CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, October 9, 2021
Take a mild autumn evening, a garden gazebo with patterned rugs and lit with soft bulbs, shake in a fine chamber ensemble, add a rising new moon, and you have a recipe for the musical delight that violist Elizabeth Prior presented Oct. 9 in her Devon House Garden Concert series. The Marin Terra Li
Recital
AUTHORITATIVE BEETHOVEN SONATA IN KLEIN'S OCCIDENTAL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, October 8, 2021
People attending the first Redwood Arts Council Occidental concert in 20 months found a surprise – a luxurious new lobby attached to the Performing Arts Center. It was a welcome bonus to a recital given by pianist Andreas Klein where the music seemed almost as familiar as was the long shuttered hal
Symphony
MOVIE MUSIC ON THE WINDSOR GREEN IN SO CO PHIL SEASON OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 3, 2021
People approaching the Windsor Green bandstand Oct. 3 for the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s season opening concert had some cause for concern. After 18 months of silence would the all-volunteer orchestra have enough musicians for a big movie music program? After all, performers can move, retire, or
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY RETURNS IN TRIUMPH
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 3, 2021
It is often the case that a single piece or performer steals the show at a symphony concert, but at the Oct. 3 performance of the Santa Rosa Symphony, the show itself stole the show. The concert opened with a serene 1982 tone poem by Libby Larsen, followed by a masterful performance by soloist Julia
Symphony
TWO WIND SOLOISTS CHARM AT SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 26, 2021
The house of music has many rooms. That dusty adage was never truer than when Weill Hall Sept. 25 hosted a roaring New Orleans-style musical party, and less than a day later a mostly sedate Sonoma State University student orchestra performance. Before a crowd of 200 conductor Alexander Kahn led a
Other
CLEARY'S NEW ORLEANS BAND IGNITES PARTY FOR THE GREEN AT SSU
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 25, 2021
A dramatic and unique start to the new Green Music’s Center’ 2021-2022 season exploded in a “Party for the Green” Sept. 25, a New Orleans (NO) style commotion featuring Jon Cleary and his Absolute Monster Gentlemen band, inside and outside of Weill Hall. Beginning with a private gourmet dinner in t
GAULIST FLAVOR IN FINAL SF PIANO FESTIVAL CONCERT AT OLD FIRST
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, August 29, 2021
Final summer music festival programs are often a mix of what has come before, with the theme and even a featured composer taking a last stage appearance, with a dramatic wrap up composition. San Francisco’s International Piano Festival defied the norm August 29 with an eclectic French-flavored prog
SPARE DUO PRECEDES MYSTEROUS DUO AT DEN BOER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, August 27, 2021
In a departure from usual summer festival fare Julia Den Boer played an August 27 virtual recital in the San Francisco Piano Festival’s 4.5 season with four works, all mostly quiet but all in separate ways insistently demanding of artist and listener. Throughout the 40 minutes there was nary a powe
HARMONIC COMPLEXITY IN PHILLIPS' ALL-GRIFFES RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, August 20, 2021
Charles Griffes’ piano music is similar to that of Busoni, Reger and even Poulenc, in that there is a sporadic flourish of interest with concerts and scholarly work, then a quick fade into another long period of obscurity. So, it was a delight to have an all-Griffes recital August 20 on the San F
Chamber
ONE PIANO, TWO PIANO, THREE PIANO, FORE
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 29, 2021
Schroeder Hall was nearly full July 29 for the final pianoSonoma concert of their season, and presumably the draw and highlight for many of the 150 attending was Bach’s Concerto for Four Pianos. And that performance was probably going to be a North Bay premiere. However, it wasn’t the highl
REVIEW
San Francisco International Piano Festival / Friday, August 20, 2021
Nicholas Phillips, piano

Nicholas Phillips Playing Griffes Aug. 20

HARMONIC COMPLEXITY IN PHILLIPS' ALL-GRIFFES RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Friday, August 20, 2021

Charles Griffes’ piano music is similar to that of Busoni, Reger and even Poulenc, in that there is a sporadic flourish of interest with concerts and scholarly work, then a quick fade into another long period of obscurity.

So, it was a delight to have an all-Griffes recital August 20 on the San Francisco International Piano Festival’s virtual series, played by Wisconsin-based pianist Nicholas Phillips. Video was effectively directed and the audio pristine, a bright piano sound making the composer’s lush harmonies gayly vivid and the fortes from the instrument hefty.

Mr. Phillips played from score throughout and the three works he chose over 52 minutes often featured judicious tempos. The music at times unfolded without sufficient urgency, something needed with most Griffes, but on balance the compositions sounded convincing enough with this approach.

The composer’s monumental Sonata wasn’t programmed, but Mr. Phillip’s wisely chose the best remaining Griffes works, beginning with the Op. 7 Roman Sketches. He played each of the four splendidly, beginning with the popular White Peacock’s shimmering legato chords and capturing the mystery of Nightfall. Novel clarity was heard in the The Fountain of the Aqua Paola, Mr. Phillips letting air into the interpretation with the final chords perfectly phrased. Clouds had the requisite complex atmospheric character, the left-hand Ostinatos sounding a melancholy impression of aerial sights.

A highlight of the recital was the playing in The Pleasure Dome of Kubla Kahn, originally for orchestra and here in the 1912 solo piano version. Mr. Phillips was in no hurry here and several Fermatas were quite extended, and he artfully juxtaposed the exoticism of the work with it wild frenetic sections. His control of layered harmonies was lovely, and this music needed this pianist’s imagination and deft touch. Kahn is such a great work, unique at the time of composition along with Sorabji, late Scriabin and Debussy.

Griffes’ three Fantasy Pieces (Op. 6) closed the program, each played with distinct individual shape. The Barcarolle unfolded in playing alien to the Barcarolles of Fauré and Chopin, the artist favoring delicacy at the expense of a more meandering water experience. The playing in the Nocturne was properly poetic, and the Scherzo’s bravura properly virtuosic.

Mr. Phillips has an obvious affinity for this “hot house” music, perhaps an acquired taste for some but for me always an auspicious experience. His elegant performance surely won new admirers to Griffes sonic wizardry.