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Choral and Vocal
A SEASONAL MESSIAH WITH BALANCE AND HEFT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 10, 2017
The mid-December concert season seems for jaded reviewers to invariably include a Messiah performance, and perhaps a Messiah in a long string of similar and mundane performances. This was decidedly not the case when San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque mounted Handel’s eminent three-part 1742 Orato...
Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony concert featured two elegant and refined guests: music director candidate Andrew Grams and pianist Stewart Goodyear. Both displayed dazzling technique and consummate artistry, but Goodyear was the more consistent of the two. Some of Grams’ inconsistency may have st...
Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
Chamber
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the ...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Mendocino Music Festival / Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Roy Malan, Violin
Kumaran Arul, Piano

Violinist Roy Malan and Pianist Kumaran Arul at Mendocino's Preston Hall

MALAN AND ARUL TAME GRIEG AT THE MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL

by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, July 15, 2009

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 effervescent pre-performance remarks were in evidence as he introduced Mr. Arul as a passionate collector of recordings of the “golden era” of the piano, and discussed the classic 1928 recording of the afternoon’s big work, Grieg’s C Minor Sonata, by none other than Kreisler and Rachmaninoff. Kreisler and Mr. Malan are violinists separated not only by a generation or two, but by their sound. The former’s tone is as wide as the great bay in front of Mendocino, the latter’s style is more constrained and the sound focused but not rich in partials or the broad phrasing that Kreisler derived from his Vienna training under Massart. What Mr. Malan brings to a recital is the art of a consummate professional, playing a wider range of music than any violinist known to me, and reflecting his own famous teachers: Galamian, Gingold and Zimbalist.

Before a jammed Preston Hall audience the program began with a curiosity, Zimbalist’s Sonata In G Minor, Written in 1926 and revised in 1968, Mr. Malan recorded the work years ago (with Robin Sutherland) and with Mr. Arul gave a compelling reading. The opening adagio sostenuto starts tentatively, the fiddle displaying no vibrato, and evolves into a lyrical theme reminiscent of John Powell’s Op. 7 Violin Sonata. Powell was an American composer with whom Zimbalist toured as early as 1913. It’s a long movement, quite Gallic in character without attaching to any individual French composer, and Mr. Malan underscored the theatrical nature of the themes, often in the top register ever so close to the bridge. After some uncharacteristic false notes, Mr. Arul settled down to wholly artistic support in a piece that must have been quite new to him. The second movement, a plaintive and languorous dance, was short and juxtaposed questioning phrases from the violin, answered by the piano. A lovely interchange indeed.

The allegro vivo finale was an animated and often jazzy ride, at one time finding Mr. Malan holding a note solidly for 15 seconds over the syncopated piano line. There are allusions to Rachmaninoff harmonies here, again often in higher registers, and Mr. Malan played it very well.

Dvorak’s Sonatina in G Major, Op. 100, closed the first half, and from the first notes it was unmistakably from the Czech composer’s American period, almost as familiar as the String Quartet in F. The four-movement work is really a set of dances: the rustic with pianissimo ending, a Negro spiritual folk song ending again lightly in a captivating descending phrase; an upbeat “square dance” Scherzo; and a whirling finale full of deceptive cadences and “Virginia Reel” rhythmic excitement.

The intermission brought a respite for the perspiring audience, buoyed by sea breezes from the hall’s open windows (they were closed at the concert’s beginning to prevent the violin from going out of tune), and the second half contained only the Op. 45 Grieg. Here the specter of Kreisler again appeared, Mr. Malan’s tonal approach gaining heft in the tumultuous opening Allegro molto. At times the piano sound overpowered the violin, and perhaps Grieg, a virtuoso pianist, would not have been at all bothered. Some of Mr. Malan’s finest playing occurred in the second movement, the balances restored and his trill slow and amazingly even. There is an ascending phrase at the end which leads up to an E natural, two octaves above the open string E, played sometimes as a harmonic which means vibrato is not heard on the note. Some violinists play it not as a harmonic but fully stopped and with vibrato, which is what I heard. Mr. Malan nailed every note, the last one deftly sailing off over the massive white Festival tent a half mile distant.

Grieg’s finale is again boisterous, and was played that way with echoes from the first movement’s themes. Mr. Arul’s energetic octaves occasionally imposed on the violin line but to no great disadvantage, both musicians bent on conveying the work’s drama and fire. Mr. Malan’s spiccato bow was vigorously dancing near the end, a joyous homage to a lyrical and demanding masterpiece. Though the applause was long and loud, the audience asked for no encore. A curious omission, as I suspect Kreisler’s delectable “Schön Rosmarin” or “Liebesfreud” were at the ready.

Roy Malan has become the North Coast’s most popular violinist, playing in several orchestras, the Trio Navarro and with many chamber ensembles, and here teamed with the formidable Mr. Arul provided the high artistry synonymous with the resplendent Mendocino Festival.

Violinist Dan Greenhouse contributed to this review.