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Chamber
VANHAL QUARTET AT VOM FESTIVAL DISCOVERY AT HANNA CENTER
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 15, 2018
A near-capacity crowd of 220 filled the Sonoma Hanna Boys Center Auditorium July 15 for the opening concert of the fourth Valley of the Moon Music Festival. This Festival presents gems of the Classical and early Romantic periods performed on instruments of the composer’s era, which presents a few ch...
Opera
SPARKLING CIMAROSA OPERA HIGHLIGHTS MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kathryn Stewart
Friday, July 13, 2018
The Classical music era was a time of extraordinary innovation. Dominated by composers from the German-speaking countries, the period witnessed the handiwork of masterpieces by two classical giants, Haydn and Mozart. Both composers put forth a tremendous catalog of masterful works and perhaps to our...
Symphony
!PURA VIDA! A SONIC TRIUMPH FOR SO CO PHIL IN THRILLING COSTA RICA TOUR CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Long anticipated events, such as a great sporting game, gourmet feast, holiday trip or a concert, occasionally fall way short of expectations. The results don’t measure to expectations. With the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Costa Rica concert June 19, the performance exceeded any heated or tenuou...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
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.