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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
Concerts Grand / Sunday, March 21, 2010
Kenn Gartner, Pianist

Kenn and Nora Gartner at JB Piano March 21 (E. Barcsak Photo)

GRANITIC PIANISM AT GARTNER'S SAN RAFAEL RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 21, 2010

Marin pianist Kenn Gartner takes his musical life in big chunks. He has a large load of private students, conducts choral groups, is part of a South Bay opera company and composes when time permits. On Bach’s birthday, March 21, he found time to tackle a large recital program at San Rafael’s JB Piano Company as part of the Concerts Grand series. He even brought his own piano to the store’s small stage.

It was fitting to begin with Bach’s “Concerto in the Italian Style,” BWV 971, and surprisingly the left-hand chords in measures one and five were arpeggiated. This was Bach with a lot of pedal and novel mordents. Sometimes the left and right hands were not together but the concluding presto was played with fire and more than the usual clarity. Mr. Gartner substituted Haydn’s brief Sonata in E Minor, Hob. XVI/34, for the programmed “Waldstein” Sonata of Beethoven, and in the opening presto he hit his stride with smooth scale playing and never seemed to be in a hurry. The finale began attacca as the composer intended, and though not a flawless reading, the performance had trim trills (all on the g note) and caught the humor of the piece.

Not to be deterred, the pianist decided from the stage to play the opening movement of the “Waldstein” (Sonata in C Major, Op. 53). Here the scale passages were not especially clear, and sections tended to run together. The right-hand skips were played accurately and the performance had a touch of the raucous patina that is part of this virtuosic piece, and the pianist made little change in tempo when the E Major second subject appeared. Though Mr. Gartner was sporadically taxed by the movement’s technical demands, he has incisive structural analysis and brings out counterpoint effectively.

Following intermission the powerful Brahms’ Rhapsodies of Op. 79 were played. Here Mr. Gartner was looking for inner voices and sharp contrasts, and these were most evident in the granitic B Minor Rhapsody. The G Minor was well played, the only intrusion in the momentum being several pauses and many ritards at the end of phrases. He is clearly a pianist for mountains peaks rather than flowery meadows.

Ravel’s “Miroirs” came next, a wonderful five-part exploration of impressionistic sound. Most memorable were the washes of rich color in Une barque sur l’ocean, the jazz-like rhythms from Alborado del Gracioso and the La vallée des cloches with its sonorous slow chords and pedal point.

Concluding the recital before 105 people was Liszt’s 10th Rhapsody in E Major, from the set of 15 published in 1853. Playing without score for the first time during the afternoon, Mr. Gartner launched into the fast scales and top-end trills with abandon, sacrificing subtlety for projection. In under six minutes, the piece shimmered with insouciant glissandi and brisk chords bordering on the comic. But it’s that kind of crowd-pleasing work and Mr. Gartner made the best of it.

Providing the most lyrical playing of the day, the pianist chose Respighi’s Notturno as an encore. The flowing melody over a gently lapping accompaniment was shaped in masterful fashion to a hushed and captivated audience.

The reviewer is the producer of Concerts Grand. Ken Iisaka contributed to the review.