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Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
Chamber
UNEXPECTED ARENSKY AND MENDELSSOHN BY THE NAVARRO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
The 100 people entering Schroeder Hall Feb. 17 for a Trio Navarro concert were handed a program that appeared to feature two popular piano trios, Mendelssohn and Arensky. But continuing the Navarro’s tradition of repertoire exploration, the pieces were not the usual first Mendelssohn and first Aren...
Recital
GLOVER'S ECLECTIC PROGRAMMING HIGHLIGHT'S CINNABAR RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
Daniel Glover is arguably the busiest virtuoso pianist in the San Francisco Bay area, but rarely is heard in North Bay concerts. So 90 local pianophiles were anxious to hear him Feb. 17 in Petaluma’s charming small Cinnabar Theater, and they were rewarded with an eclectic program of sometimes unfam...
Symphony
MENDELSSOHN'S SCOTTISH SAVES THE EVENING IN SRS WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Monday, February 11, 2019
The audience entering Weill Hall for Santa Rosa Symphony concerts Feb. 9-11 were presented with a program that on first glance appeared a curious patchwork – a great symphony mixed with a seldom heard concerto and two disparate overtures, and a guest conductor unknown locally. Monday night’s concer...
Recital
INTRIGUING BELL-HAYWOOD RECITAL BEFORE FULL HOUSE IN WEILL HALL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, February 08, 2019
A big portion of the capacity audience in Weill Hall February 8th came to hear violinist Joshua Bell’s virtuosity, and were treated as well to splendid playing from Sam Haywood, Mr. Bell’s regular pianist since 2010. The duo performed three engaging sonatas, highlighted by Mr. Bell’s sterling techn...
Symphony
TRIPLE PLAY UKIAH SYMPHONY CONCERT AND TCHAIKOVSKY SERENADE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Over the years the Ukiah Symphony’s concerts have been in the Classical Sonoma Calendar sections, but rarely has this Orchestra, now in its 39th season, had a full winter season concert review. The provocative Jan. 27 program in Mendocino College’s Center Theater seemed a good reason to reacquaint ...
Symphony
JACKSON THEATER WELCOMES A NEW RESIDENT ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Moving to a permanent new performance venue can be a perilous undertaking for an orchestra, with different acoustics, the loyal audience finding the new spot and infrastructure challenges of lighting and lobby and backstage operations. In their first concert Jan. 26 in Windsor’s Jackson Theater the...
Symphony
ECLECTIC PASSIONATE PROGRAMMING AT MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 26, 2019
The Marin Symphony’s second Masterworks concert of the 2018-19 season featured works by John Adams, Sibelius and Brahms, a masterful assembly. In a spoken introduction before the program’s first half, conductor Alasdair Neale primed the audience for the “terra incognita” of Adams’ The Chairman Dance...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Oakmont Concert Series / Thursday, May 08, 2008
RAFAL BLECHACZ, CONCERT PIANIST

Rafael Blechacz

CHOPIN WINNER WOWS THEM IN OAKMONT

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, May 08, 2008

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 D-Major Sonata, K. 311. His command of fluid scale passages served the work well, as did his ability to put a little 'air' between the notes, establishing clarity as well as speed. He chose fast tempi and minimal pedal for both the opening allegro con spirito and the concluding rondeau. His hands were admirably balanced, and his dynamic control was exceptional. Clearly he has had excellent teachers. Unfortunately, several notes in the upper tenor and treble of the house piano went quickly out of tune, and continued so throughout the recital.

Debussy's Estampes followed, and was delivered effectively, if at times a little blandly. The three works in this collection are coloristic journeys into rich impressionism, and Blechacz presented them without showing any natural affinity for the Frenchman's often diaphanous and subtle music. Nonetheless, they were played with sonorous attention to detail, and received loud applause.

The first half ended with Szymanowski's early B-Flat Minor Variations, Op. 3, which received a passionate reading. Written just after 1900, this work has a noble theme and 12 disparate variations. Blechacz played them with ardor and masterly comprehension.

Chopin's 24 Preludes, Op. 28, comprised the second half of the concert. Blechacz's pianism here was of considerable authority but finally a little underwhelming. This trait seems odd for a competition winner, as the norm is for barnstorming, virtuosic playing to impress jurors and audiences alike. But Blechacz offered a more restrained approach to this intricate work, never getting a resounding fortissimo from the piano, often cutting off fermatas, never prolonging pedal points, and even underplaying the fleeting 16th and 22nd preludes. It's certainly a valid approach to this magnificent music, but a more heroic and large-scale interpretation seems preferable. Blechacz is young, however, and the Preludes should hold infinite possibilities for his future interest. Profound music demands a lifetime of artistic thought.

Responding to loud acclaim, he offered one encore, a scintillating Chopin waltz. Here in six minutes all the best of Mr. Blechacz's art was present: sovereign control, a chaste tone, perfectly etched scales and sculpted phrases of great beauty.