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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 ...
REVIEW

Pianist John Boyajy and Soprano Bryn Jimenez

SCHUBERT AND EXALTED MOZART IN NOVATO RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 03, 2010

Marin pianist John Boyajy can’t be neutral about any important musical matter. He has passion and the ability to speak extensive words about that passion, and his excitement about Schubert, Bach and Mozart was everywhere in evidence in a duo recital with soprano Bryn Jimenez Jan. 3 in Novato’s All Saints Lutheran Church. Fifty-Five attended on a gloomy and cold day

Beginning with Schubert’s B-Flat Impromptu from Op. 142, Mr. Boyajy set the afternoon’s stage with a reading replete with chaste phrasing and balanced contrasts in the theme, five variations and coda. The non-professional church piano allowed a delicate treble pianissimo in the slow and dignified third variation but had a muddy bass section. Mr. Boyajy underscored the modulation leading to the final variation, his fast scales shimmering. The two chords of the coda were deftly played, the final one oddly broken.

Soprano Bryn Jimenez joined Mr. Boyajy in three Schubert songs to close the first half. Ms. Jimenez has a big and sometimes brash voice, not always suited to the nuance of Schubert lied, but possessing good German diction and ample drama. In “Ganymed” (D. 544) the long sustained notes were floated with care, and the piano’s ending resolution into the major was beautifully crafted. The “Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel” (D. 118) began with requisite rumbling repetitive piano chords, depicting the spinning process, and Ms. Jimenez’s vocal line flew effortlessly in the upper register. Here her lower staff richness became at times monochromatic, especially at high volume, but there was no lack of drama and pathos. The concluding “The Young Nun” (D. 828), a complex work from 1825 projecting an intense spiritual ecstasy, was sung with a beguiling mystery in the low voice and intrinsic histrionics. It was a gripping reading.

Bach’s C Minor Fantasia (S. 906) began the second half, in Mr. Boyajy’s capable hands. It’s a brilliant if short work, with large chromatic modulations. The pianist provided a performance that had aspects of Scarlatti’s sonatas, the turns and mordents directly stated and finger articulation and trills artfully executed.

Mozart’s solo motet “Exsultate Jubilate” (K. 165) closed the program and brought out the best singing of the afternoon. In the opening Allegro Ms. Jimenez chose a narrower vibrato than used in the Schubert songs, and Mr. Boyajy’s accompaniment was continuously forceful. The Larghetto begins with a recitative reminiscent of “The Marriage of Figaro” and was thoughtfully sung, the piano line subtlety played and modulating to the famous “alleluia” finale. Here Mozart asks a lot of the singer, the playful and happy text exploring a wide range of vocal color. Ms. Jimenez left nothing on the table, her powerful voice bringing the audience to its feet.

An encore was demanded and surprisingly Ms. Jimenez deferred to her partner, as Mr. Boyajy played Debussy’s “Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum” from the Children’s Corner Suite. The scales were fast and the legato balanced, perhaps the most virtuosic pianism of the concert.