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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
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.