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Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
Symphony
PEACE AND LOVE FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 04, 2018
Before the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 4 performance of Leonard Bernstein’s “Symphonic Dances from West Side Story,” Symphony CEO Alan Silow took a moment to acknowledge the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack and to observe that music offers a more peaceful and loving view of the world. Mr. ...
RECITAL REVIEW

Gustavo Romero at the Newman Hall Piano Feb. 19

ROMERO CELEBRATES CHOPIN IN SANTA ROSA CONCERTS

by Terry McNeill
Friday, February 19, 2010

Recitals entirely devoted to the works of Chopin are not rare, and the 200th anniversary of the great Pole’s birth has already spawned world-wide concerts of his music and for memorializing his artistry. What was basically new in pianist Gustavo Romero’s Oakmont (Feb. 18) and SRJC (Feb. 19) recitals was how he structured the program. The four tumultuous Ballades (Ops. 23, 39, 47 and 52) didn’t constitute the second half, and the Ballades were not played in the usual order. Though the two recitals had different instruments, room acoustics and audience ambiance, the pianist’s approach to the music and printed program were the same, and thus a composite review of the performances.

A singular pianist, Mr. Romero took a small-scaled approach to much of the music, eschewing hall-filling volume in favor of introspection, careful phrasing and fastidiously balanced chords. He seems to shy away from overstatement, even in the demanding passages of the G Minor and F Minor Ballades, leading the listener to appreciate previously overlooked parts of this wonderfully familiar and descriptive music. Beginning with the somber Prelude in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 45, Mr. Romero played with subtle tempos changes and just the right amount of rumination. The following B Major Nocturne, Op. 62, No. 1, was also performed in moderate tempo with expressive long trills and a deft distinction between the upper and lower voices.

Less intimate and more expansive than the Nocturnes, the F-Sharp Barcarolle, Op. 60, found Mr. Romero stressing the Italianate character of the melody and the arabesque-like contours. In the Op. 44 Polonaise, also in F Sharp, the pianist opted for clarity over momentum but captured the rhythmic drive of the work. The last chord was broken, to fine effect. Concluding the first half was the popular second Scherzo in B Flat, Op. 31. The many quiet sections and diminuendos were effective, as was the accelerando at the end. Less efficacious were the extended delays between sections and when Mr. Romero resorted to pounding before the coda, resulting in a shrill sound. In Berger Auditorium’s wide space the volume was pleasant, but in Newman it was harsh and overly loud.

Changing the usual order of the Ballades, by opus number, made sense in Mr. Romero’s capable hands. The cheery A-Flat Major had the requisite careful pedaling and phrasing in the second subject in F. In the second Ballade the opening folk-like material was handled adroitly but was in small profile, even during the outbursts of sound (presto con fuoco) at bars 47 and 169. The big chord at measure 197, lapsing immediately to unisons in piano, was held with a long pedal, producing a shimmering effect.

The final two Ballades, in F Minor and G Minor, are great dramas that unfold through Chopin’s genius, and Mr. Romero applied effective rubato throughout. In Op. 52, the left-hand octaves were robustly played, and the fortissimo chord at 202, with the bottom octave in C, was cut off without pedal, producing some anxious clapping from a few in the Newman Auditorium audience. The tumultuous coda went well. The G Minor Ballade was played with less pedal, everything scrupulously planned but without many of the romantic-era flourishes that makes a much-admired work seem fresh. The right-hand octaves in bars 110 to 111 were performed fast, without vocal phrasing so needed in Chopin.

The single encore, Turkish composer Fazil Say’s “Black Earth," was a sensation. The 1997 composition has slowly arpeggiated chords, mostly in the left hand, combining with intriguing sounds from piano strings muted by the artist’s left (and occasionally) right hand. The result, in just over seven minutes, was a haunting tour de force of sonority from Mr. Romero. The audience and the reviewer were captivated.