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Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now they seem to be on almost ever...
Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the season’s final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church, as the performers...
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.