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Symphony
CONDUCTOR PLAYOFFS BEGIN IN SANTA ROSA
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 08, 2017
The Santa Rosa Symphony is calling 2017-18 “a choice season” because the next few months offer the audience and the symphony’s board of directors a chance to choose a new conductor from a pool of five candidates. Each candidate will lead a three-concert weekend set this fall and winter, with a final...
Symphony
DVORAK AND TCHAIKOVSKY ORCHESTRAL COLOR AT SO CO PHIL SEASON OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 30, 2017
A concert with curious repertoire and splashy orchestral color launched the 19th season of the Sonoma County Philharmonic Sept. 30 in Santa Rosa High School’s Auditorium. Why curious? Conductor Norman Gamboa paired the ever-popular Dvorak and his rarely heard 1891 trilogy In Nature’s Realm, with t...
Recital
ELEGANT PIANISM IN WATER MUSIC CHARMS HOUSE RECITAL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 03, 2017
A standard component of house concerts often involve listeners hearing the music but also smelling the lasagna and seeing the champagne in the adjacent kitchen. But it was not the case Sept. 3 at Sandra Shen’s Concerts Grand House Recital performance, as her riveting piano playing enthralled the sm...
Chamber
YOUNG MUSICIANS SHINE AT PIANO SONOMA CONCERT
by Lee Ormasa
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
The third in a series of four concerts by Piano Sonoma artists in residence, part of the Vino and Vibrato Series, was held August 1 in Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center. Entitled “The Masters,” the program included works by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. Piano Sonoma is a summer artist-in...
Chamber
THRILLING PROGRAM CLOSES VOM CHAMBER FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, July 30, 2017
The finale of the two-week Valley of the Moon Music Festival closed July 30 with “The Age of Bravura” concert at the Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. The musical selections held to this year’s Festival theme “Schumann’s World - His Music and the Music He Loved.“ This summer Festival features chamber mus...
Chamber
PERIOD INSTRUMENTAL SOUND AT PENULTIMATE VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 30, 2017
In the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival’s penultimate concert July 30 the perennial issue of period and modern instruments was apparent. But only in the concluding Mendelssohn Trio, as the performances in the two first half works easily avoided instrumental comparisons. Clara Schumann’s t...
Chamber
ECLECTIC REPERTOIRE IN FETCHING VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 22, 2017
One of the purposes of summer music festivals is to present unfamiliar music in an attractive and often small audience setting. The Valley of the Moon Music Festival delightfully met these requirements July 22 and 23 with two concerts in the small hall at Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. Classical Sono...
Recital
ADAMS' PHRYGIAN GATES HIGHLIGHTS MORKOSKI FESTIVAL PERFORMANCE
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Attendees at the Molly Morkoski Mendocino Music Festival recital July 22 were in for a treat, both pianistically and if they happened to buy a tasty cookie during intermission. The program included Beethoven’s Op. 27 Moonlight Sonata, Adams’ Phrygian Gates, a surprise add-on of Grieg’s Holberg Suit...
Symphony
SOARING VERDI REQUIEM CLOSES 31ST MENDOCINO FESTIVAL
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
We speak frequently about how there is nothing like the experience of a live performance. Seldom was this truer than at the July 22 closing performance of the two-week Mendocino Music Festival. The Festival Orchestra, conducted by of Allan Pollack, joined with the Festival Chorus in a moving renderi...
Recital
ORGAN REGISTRATION MASTERY HEARD IN WALHAIN'S RECITAL
by Robert Young
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
A group of 65 lucky attendees July 18 had the pleasure of hearing Etienne Walhain’s recital at the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa. Mr. Walhain is organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Tournai, Belgium, and played to a varied program Bach, Franck, and Reger. He used the tonal resource...
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.