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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 28, 2010
Zeynep Ucbasaran, Pianist

Zeynep Ucbasaran Receives Applause after Liszt's Grand Paraphrase

CHOPIN SCHERZOS FEATURED IN UCBASARAN RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 28, 2010

Chopin’s bicentennial received another boost March 28 as pianist Zeynep Ucbasaran played a Newman Auditorium concert devoted mostly to the works of the great Polish master.

In the penultimate series recital in the seventh Concerts Grand season, Ms. Ucbasaran presented a program built around three of the Scherzos, with bookends of Adnan Saygun’s Aksak Studies one through five, and a Liszt paraphrase. The richly chromatic Polonaise-Fantaisie, Op. 61, from late in Chopin’s short life, was added to the mix, replacing several short works and the “Heroic” Polonaise. Scherzo is defined as a musical joke, but Chopin’s four are hardly that. Each (the popular B-Flat, No. 2, was omitted) contains virtuosic writing with cascades of notes, many repeats and lots of fortissimo.

In the first Scherzo in B Minor, Op. 20, Ms. Ucbasaran underlined the work’s restless nature, making the theme on the contrasting lyric section more pronounced. The C-Sharp Minor (No. 3) opened with the requisite presto con fuoco tempo and a lovely the chorale-like melody in D Flat. The spray of leggierissimo arpeggios were played well, if a bit repetitiously and often too quickly. The final Scherzo in E Major, Op. 54, was played with a deliberate tempo and found the pianist being taxed technically and without a big sound, though Ms. Ucbasaran gave the vocal piu lento section a languorous and nostalgic reading.

In the A Flat Polonaise-Fantaisie the music became under the artist’s fingers a small tone poem, the opening chords creating sufficient mystery to give the impression of continuous organic growth of the themes. The loose formal structure of this unique work makes it difficult to hold together, but Ms. Ucbasaran had all under control. The three sets of trills in both hands during the middle of the Polonaise were crystal clear.

Turkish composer Saygun’s Aksak sketches began the concert, music as unfamiliar to the 80 attending as it was well received. As a compatriot of the composer, Ms. Ucbasaran plays these works (from 1969) with special flair and rhythmic excitement, and has recorded them. The piquant sonorities were refreshing and the tempos were relaxed and the phrasing elegant.

At the end of Liszt’s touring career he found himself in Istanbul, and after hearing a theme from Donizetti’s brother (the composer in residence) he wrote a Grand Paraphrase de la Marche de Giuseppe Donizetti, and dedicated it to Sultan Abdul-Medjid Kahn. Surely a premiere performance in the North Bay, Ms. Ucbasaran gave the tough repeated notes and swirls of sound a fast ride. But it’s bottom-drawer Liszt, not comparable to the great operatic paraphrases of Verdi, Bellini, Wagner and Mozart. It was good to hear a novelty, but the music faded quickly after the pianist took bows to loud applause.

Two encores were offered, beginning with Chopin’s delicate triplet finger study in the Etude in F Minor, Op. 25, No. 2. The second was 20 measures from ending of the Third Scherzo, a strange abbreviation with yet more fleet and strident notes.

The reviewer is the producer of the Concerts Grand series.