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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
Concerts Grand / Sunday, September 20, 2009
Nareh Arghamanyan, Pianist

Conductor Constantine Orbelian Congratulates Ms. Arghamanyan

HIGH ARTISTRY IN CONCERTS GRAND'S OPENING RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 20, 2009

Anticipation was in the warm air Sept. 20 in Santa Rosa’s Newman Auditorium. In addition to being the first Concerts Grand Series recital of the year, there was excitement surrounding the Armenian pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, making her Northern California debut amid extravagant press notices and comparisons with such artists as the young Alicia de Larrocha.

Beginning with Mendelssohn’s best work for piano, the Op. 54 Variations Serieuses, Ms. Arghamanyan stated the theme slowly, almost reverently, and clearly she can shape a beautiful phrase. The entire work positively sparkled. But it was also a carefully thought out interpretation, the tempo changes in the variations seeming to flow naturally, the embellishments played with bravura that never buried the noble theme. In this work the composer moves from the declining chromatic line to a rising chromatic line with a serious nature, and yet it was quietly delicate, and the pianist could suddenly launch a fortissimo passage that made one almost jump from their seat.

Concluding the first half was Schumann’s mighty Carnaval, Op. 9, receiving a performance that compared favorably with that of Jon Nakamatsu on the same stage Nov. 30. Here the dynamic range was large, a lovely pianissimo in Reconnaissance and Replique contrasting the dynamic passion of the final Marche. The Chopin section had the right amount of subtle agitation, dynamic shadings and lyrical beauty. Sphinxes’ mysterious bass rumble was omitted. In the coda Ms. Arghamanyan chose at Piu Stretto a tempo that almost outran her fleet fingers and control. Almost. It was a performance that brought the audience of 110 to their feet in cheers.



Following intermission the pianist returned to perform the recently-popular Pletnev transcription of seven scenes from the Tchaikovsky “Nutcracker” ballet. With themes so familiar, Ms. Arghamanyan was free to lavish her considerable command of color and texture, each part unfolding differently than the preceding. The Intermezzo was especially effective, depicting the cold Russian winter, as were the strains of the celesta and harp in the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. I found the playing ravishing, and deft pedal use allowed the artist to generate piano sound (as opposed to architecture or color) in and for itself. That is not a common trait in youthful pianists.

The recital ended with a signature piece for the artist and the work which captured the audience in her gold medal success at the 2008 Montreal International Piano Competition, the second Rachmaninoff Sonata. Ms. Arghamanyan used the composer’s revised version (1931) and gave a volcanic performance, but perhaps without the last bit of sonic power. Newman has dead acoustics but is sufficiently small that even a slightly underplayed Rachmaninoff work has considerable impact. It’s a three-movement work but the pianist gave the impression of having only one, the drama of the opening and closing Allegro sections connected by a lyrical and pensive interlude. Here again Ms. Arghamanyan’s mastery was evident, making a super-romantic composition cohesive and telling. No one was left in their seats following the final forte crashes, and one wondered what the demanded encore could be after the sonic carnage of Rachmaninoff’s glorious finale.

It was a wise encore choice, the nostalgic Bach arrangement of his contemporary Alessandro Marcello’s Adagio from the Oboe Concerto in D, BWV 974. Here Ms. Arghamanyan lavished lovely pianistic colors, paired with virtually no tempo fluctuation and a staccato touch. It was a riveting reading.

The recital stands with the recent Santa Rosa piano concerts of Hamelin, Kuschnerova, Pompa-Baldi and Nakamatsu as radiant musical art. And Ms. Arghamanyan is just 20.

The reviewer is the Producer of Concerts Grand. Jim Burns and James Houle contributed to the review.

Marin pianist Kenn Gartner attended Ms. Arghamanyan's recital and submitted comments on the pianism:

I shall not discuss interpretation (one may surmise what the mature Nareh Arghamanyan will do) or repertoire; instead, I shall confine my remarks to the reasons why this performance was so successful.

What was it about this young pianist's playing that entranced the Newman audience? For example, her two-note phrases were done beautifully. This is set of two notes, the first of which is louder than the second, and the second note starts at the level of the first note's decay. The pianist also took time to breathe. Most phrases in music are composed according to how long a human may sing them. Thus, there was time for breath between each sentence (a term also utilized in music) which varied according to the interpretation of the music. There were frames of silence around the movements and the works, and she kept her hands on the keyboard and thus conveyed to the house she was not finished with the work.

Her fortissimi were, for the most part, non-percussive: when she played loudly (and this piano was not truly able to respond to her demands) we did not hear the fingers rapping the key, a failing in many pianists. Instead, she grabbed the keys, thus avoiding the additional rap of the key hitting the key-bed. Miss Arghamanyan's pianissimos were made the same way: she pulled the sound from the instrument and controlled the descent of the key.

Last, and certainly not least, this pianist took the time to construct her phrases. If a particular moment required more time (this is the concept of the agogic) she took that time, stretching the music where it needed to be stretched, contracting the music where it needed to be contracted for the purpose of her vision. Think of what Chopin terms tempo rubato, or “stolen time.” The playing here had rubati, but the stretching of pianistic lines to create drama and sentiment goes far beyond what Chopin mentions.

My personal comment to her as she departed was that “This recital was worth 40 piano lessons!" She was so modest and unassuming I needed to explain that chronological age should never be an issue. I learned a lot.