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Symphony
ZUILL PLAYS ZWILICH WITH SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The Santa Rosa Symphony took a cautious step toward the return of live music in their March 28 virtual concert by sharing the stage with an actual live soloist rather than an apparition. Star cellist Zuill Bailey was still masked, and his back was toward the equally masked and plexiglassed orchestra...
Chamber
ECLECTIC CELLO PIANO VIRTUAL RECITAL FROM TOMKINS ZIVIAN DUO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The venerable 41-year Redwood Arts Council Series in Occidental has joined the virtual recital world with low budget but artistically satisfying programs, mostly using videos filmed in the performer’s residences. March 28 saw the Tanya Tomkins-Eric Zivian duo present an eclectic program from their ...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HITS THE SWEET SPOT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Small orchestras can inhabit a sweet spot between chamber ensembles and full orchestras, but how well they hit that spot depends on the composer's orchestration and the players' ability to project. That dependence was on full display in the Santa Rosa Symphony's Feb. 28 concert, which featured three...
Chamber
NOVEL OBOE-HARPSICHORD RECITAL FROM AIKEN DUO IN UKIAH
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Oboe and harpsichord recitals are a rare North Bay event, even in a pandemic environment where a formal hall setting isn’t available. So it was a delight Feb. 21 to experience on the Ukiah Symphony’s website a recital by Symphony oboist Beth Aiken and harpsichordist husband Tom. The Aiken home vis...
Symphony
A HEALTHY MIX OF TRANSCRIPTIONS AND ORIGINALS FROM THE SR SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Transcriptions and ascending arpeggios were the order of the day on Jan. 24, as the Santa Rosa Symphony performed uplifting works by Bach/Webern, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Marianna Martínes and Mozart. The concert video was made in Weill Hall on Jan. 9. The first transcription was Webern’s 1935 renderi...
Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
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...
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.