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Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
BEETHOVEN'S VALENTINE'S DAY GIFT IN RAC SEBASTOPOL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, February 14, 2020
Continuing a season of Redwood Arts Council successes, the Kouzov Duo performed an eclectic Valentine’s Day concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church before an audience of 125. Beethoven’s charming Op. 66 Variations on Mozart’s “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from the opera the Magic Flute was a bouncy ...
LUSH BACH PERFORMANCE IN DENK'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 13, 2020
Memorable artistic interpretations of musical masterpieces are often at extremes, and with the Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (WTC - Book I) that Jeremy Denk played in Weill Hall Feb. 13, the pianist was only sporadically at unique or ebullient musical ends. But his playing wasn’t exactly at opposite...
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.