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Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
BEETHOVEN'S VALENTINE'S DAY GIFT IN RAC SEBASTOPOL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, February 14, 2020
Continuing a season of Redwood Arts Council successes, the Kouzov Duo performed an eclectic Valentine’s Day concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church before an audience of 125. Beethoven’s charming Op. 66 Variations on Mozart’s “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from the opera the Magic Flute was a bouncy ...
LUSH BACH PERFORMANCE IN DENK'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 13, 2020
Memorable artistic interpretations of musical masterpieces are often at extremes, and with the Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (WTC - Book I) that Jeremy Denk played in Weill Hall Feb. 13, the pianist was only sporadically at unique or ebullient musical ends. But his playing wasn’t exactly at opposite...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Oakmont Concert Series / Thursday, September 10, 2009
OLGA VINOKUR, CONCERT PIANIST

Pianist Olga Vinokur

VINOKUR SHINES IN ALL-RUSSIAN PROGRAM AT OAKMONT

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, September 10, 2009

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.

Beginning with Shostakovich’s first numbered composition, the 3 Fantastic Dances from 1922, Ms. Vinokur established a pattern that would continue throughout the recital – earnest attention to detail, carefully balanced voicing between the hands and a deft pianissimo touch. The Dances were forgettable curiosities and an odd selection, considering the greatness of the composer’s Op. 87 Preludes and Fugues, but there was fleeting charm for all, and in the second piece the pesky right-hand skips were effortlessly played.

Ten Scriabin Preludes came next, mostly from the Op. 11 set (of 24), but introduced by the haunting Prelude in C-Sharp Minor (for the left hand) from Op. 9. In all these the specter of Chopin looms large, and Ms. Vinokur was content to underplay, looking for subtle contrast and avoiding a big sound. Repose in these works is welcome, but more rhythmic flexibility was needed in the wistful A Minor and dreamy D Major preludes. Ms. Vinokur played the entire set well, but at times the phrasing was predictable, removed from the masterful Scriabin of Sofronitzky and Shura Cherkassky. Two Scriabin studies followed, the Op. 2, No. 1, the most memorable of the pair, and long a Horowitz favorite. Perhaps Scriabin’s most popular work, the D-Sharp Minor Etude from Op. 8 (in the original version) received a routine performance missing the demonic force that caused dancer Isadora Duncan to say that the Etude was the “agony of the Russian people.”

Medtner wrote three volumes of Forgotten Melodies, and the pianist played just one, a Canzona Matinata from Op. 39. The runs were half-pedaled, the nostalgia of the work carefully unfolding. Medtner never gets enough performances, and this one had a simple enchantment.

The first half ended with Prokofiev’s short Third Sonata, Op. 28, a work last played in Oakmont by pianist Gila Goldstein. Here Ms. Vinokur struggled a bit technically, her beguiling soft playing unable to offset the lack of the requisite left-hand fortes and the intrusion of several quick memory lapses. The bravura and rhythmic drive were present, but not quite in the amount needed to carry the piece.

The second part was all Rachmaninoff, comprising the Six Moments Musicaux, Op. 16, and a transcription of Kreisler’s violin bagatelle Liebeslied. The Op. 16 works are early, from 1896, and are brilliantly written salon works in a late-Romantic style. For me they lack the interest and compact textures of the more famous Op. 23 Preludes, and under Ms. Vinokur’s fingers made a mixed impression. In some, especially in the rhetorical B-Flat Minor and the barcarolle-like D-Flat Major, she caught the ruminating character of the works, too similar to Scriabin, and her legato scales shimmered. In pieces that had vast swirls of notes, as the composer often writes, the playing became muddy, and in the second piece she was briefly lost. It’s easy to do that with so much florid pianistic decoration. The rhythmic patterns of the final C Major “Moment” were brought out well, presaging the same model for the later B-Flat Prelude of Op. 23.

The Liebeslied, the first of a pair of reworkings from the composer’s colleague Fritz Kreisler, was played with charm and rhythmic vitality, if not the last ounce of virtuosity.

One encore was offered, a Scarlatti sonata, performed with fleet panache. It was worlds removed from the sonorous harmonies from the Russians composers.