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Choral and Vocal
A SEASONAL MESSIAH WITH BALANCE AND HEFT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 10, 2017
The mid-December concert season seems for jaded reviewers to invariably include a Messiah performance, and perhaps a Messiah in a long string of similar and mundane performances. This was decidedly not the case when San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque mounted Handel’s eminent three-part 1742 Orato...
Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony concert featured two elegant and refined guests: music director candidate Andrew Grams and pianist Stewart Goodyear. Both displayed dazzling technique and consummate artistry, but Goodyear was the more consistent of the two. Some of Grams’ inconsistency may have st...
Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
Chamber
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the ...
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.