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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 / Sunday, August 29, 2021
Jory Vinikour and Philippe LeRoy, harpsichord; Gwendolyn Mok and Jeffrey LaDeur, piano

G. Mok and J. LaDeur August 29 at Festival's End

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 program, mostly virtual and finally with an audience of 60 in the venerable Old First Church sanctuary (O1C) on Van Ness Avenue.

Directed by Jeffrey LaDeur, the “Les Années Folles” began with a transcription of Poulenc’s 1936 Suite Francaise, heralding a day of transcriptions. The seven-section Suite juxtaposed Jory Vinikour at a two-manual concert harpsichord with pianist Gwendolyn Mok playing the house concert Steinway, alternating sections and reflecting on their colleague’s artistry.

I must be said that in O1C dynamics are problematical and many find the small balcony best. String quartets are good, as is piano sound below mezzo forte, but as more volume is added acoustics become mud, sporadically enhanced by busses moving out and fire engine sirens. In this performance the “Pavane” was heard as a slow religious march, using perhaps old modes, and the harpsichord’s faint sound in the “Petite Marche Militaire” carried surprisingly well, as did the introduction of “Complainte” with a note of mystery. Ms. Mok’s “Bransle de Champagne” continued the same theme, followed by Mr. Vinikour’s bucolic and stately playing in the “Sicilienne.”

The celebratory combo in the (“Carillon”) finale was effectively played, with Ms. Mok’s damper pedaling covering at times the harpsichord’s line. A splendid beginning with captivating music.

Two Couperin works followed, the “Les Folie Francoise sou les Domininos” (13th Ordre, B Minor) and from the 8th Ordre a “Passacaille.” Philippe LeRoy was the virtuoso harpsichordist, his playing awash with trills, mordants, turns, appoggiaturas and stylistic flourishes that the music demands. The key dip in a harpsichord is less than the .375” of a piano, giving his elaborations around the themes blinding speed. Couperin was a contemporary of Bach, Scarlatti and Handel, but his music is radically different than each, and Mr. LeRoy’s superb playing in the “Passacaille” contained tasteful off-beat accents and lots of arpeggios.

Nadia Boulanger’s fame as a composition teacher has made her own small output rarely heard, and it was a treat to have Mr. LaDeur perform the four-minute “Vers la vie Nouvelle” (To the New Life) from 1918. The pianist underscored a strong bass pedal point sound in the prelude, turning to chirpy phrases in the treble and lyrical harmonies that reminded one of late Liszt.

More unfamiliar music was heard in the second half with five pieces from Déodat de Séverac’s En Vascances (Book I, 1912) and Tailleferre’s “Deux Valses.” Each of the charming Séverac miniatures were played with enchanting individuality, the highlights being the up tempo skittish Mimi se Déguise en “Marquise”, with its Rameau connection, and the courtly salon “Valse” that was faintly Grieg and Blumenfeld in delicious modulations. Frothy waltzes continued in the Tailleferre, the second (Valse brillante) being more complicated and was played in a loud rocking jovial French style as it gathered speed.

Ravel’s omniscient “La Valse” in the two-piano transcription ended the concert and the 10-day Festival, Ms. Mok at the powerful Church Steinway and Mr. LaDeur front and center playing an interloper, a rarely seen Steingräeber piano that eclipses even a Fazioli in cost. It’s a work that seems to go off the rails of Viennese convention: sweeping glissandos pile onto shrill passages, deceptive cadences and potent rumbles to generate a decadent and a slowly increasing tsumani of muscular sound. The duo ended this seminal piece not with a whimper but with a bang.

There was no encore and in COVID times no reception in O1C’s popular but timeworn basement. The concert was an appropriate end to a uniquely inspiring summer Festival.