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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...
Chamber
TRIO NAVARRO'S POPULAR FARE IN SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 08, 2018
Long time Classical Sonoma readers may recall many Trio Navarro concert reviews that lauded their virtuosity and interest in rarely played repertoire. The April 8 concert in Schroeder Hall before 85 chamber music fans featured sterling performances but had a mostly conservative menu of popular trio...
Recital
KENNER'S ALL POLISH RECITAL HAS PADEREWSKI RARITY
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, April 08, 2018
Kevin Kenner’s April 8 recital at Dominican University’s Angelico Hall had been advertised as all-Chopin, but he added a detour into another seminal Polish composer-pianist, Paderewski. Several of Mr. Kenner’s teachers were Poles, he speaks Polish, and he navigated at the piano both composers’ deman...
Symphony
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE VOICE AT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, April 08, 2018
In an April 8 Santa Rosa Symphony concert filled to the brim with instruments--electric violin, vibraphone, marimba, xylophone, glockenspiel, keyboard samplers, harps, piano and myriad drums, gongs and bells, to say nothing of winds, brass and strings--the instrument that came out on top was the hum...
Chamber
VOM FESTIVAL TRIO CHARMS WITH CHAMBER MIX, AND HUMMEL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, March 31, 2018
At the core of the group of Valley of the Moon Music Festival (VOM) musicians is an ensemble of trios and duos, and as a trio March 31 Festival founders cellist Tanya Tomkins and pianist Eric Zivian joined British violinist Monica Huggett for a chamber music concert in the Green Music Center’s Schro...
Choral and Vocal
GOOD FRIDAY REQUIEM FILLS INCARNATION
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 30, 2018
Maurice Duruflé’s short and intense Requiem has been heard in Santa Rosa’s Church of the Incarnation before, but the March 30 Good Friday performance was stripped down in the number of performers, combining Cantiamo Sonoma and the St. Cecilia Choir with musical underpinning from organist Robert Youn...
Symphony
HAMELIN'S HUSKY MOOD IN SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 25, 2018
Convention in piano recitals has the artist coming on stage and playing. Canadian pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin walked on Schroeder Hall’s stage March 25 and didn’t play for six minutes, chatting with the audience. A risk for some artists. Then most programs include a contemporary or rarely play...
Recital
VIRTUOSIC VARIATIONS IN MORGAN'S SCHROEDER ORGAN RECITAL
by Paul Blanchard
Sunday, March 18, 2018
Organist Robert Huw Morgan’s artistry spun through the web of early variation form in a Mar. 18 recital on Schroeder Hall’s wonderful Brombaugh organ. Mr. Morgan, Stanford University’s resident organist, performs a wide range of repertoire, but as he said in comments to the audience, he loves when h...
Symphony
ORFF AND HINDEMITH SONIC SPLENDOR AT FINAL SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, March 17, 2018
Sonoma County Philharmonic concerts are continually artistically successful but on the Santa Rosa High School’s stage the orchestra rarely numbers above 40, and in the 900-seat hall audiences can be scant. Violinists can be in short supply. An opposite scene occurred at the March 17/18 concert set...
RECITAL REVIEW
Mendocino Music Festival / Sunday, July 11, 2010
Paul Roberts, piano

Pianist Paul Roberts in Preston Hall July 11

ROBERTS PLAYS UNEVEN RECITAL AT MENDOCINO FESTIVAL

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 11, 2010

British pianist Paul Roberts played a recital in two disparate parts July 11 in Mendocino Music Festival’s piano series in Preston Hall.

Before 65 people Mr. Roberts planned the initial part around music of Ravel and Liszt, each with extensive descriptive titles. The pieces were preceded by a lengthy verbal introductions, set out in Mr. Roberts’ unique blend of historical description, philosophy, musical analysis and a sporadic dash of gossip. The pianist is a superb speaker, witty and at all times pithy and instructive. It’s refreshing to hear the English language fashioned so well. At times one wished for more piano playing and less education, but it’s a summer festival and the speaker knows the territory.

What the artist didn’t do well, at least until the intermission, is to play the piano at a high level. In Liszt’s “Au Lack Du Wallenstadt” the chosen tempo, as throughout the afternoon, was fine but the piano sound was muffled, the left hand indistinct under the simple melody. The same composer’s “Au bord d’une source” was heavily pedaled with a heavy touch and the line was broken by an extended pause. Aural memories came back to a Horowitz performance in Carnegie Hall of the same piece, awash with a shimmer of sound and delicate phrasing and half pedal. Shura Cherkassky’s rendition was also inimitable.

Ravel’s “Jeux d’eau” received a more idiomatic reading with fluid arpeggios and a “watery” cadenza. Two more Liszt works followed, the Sonetto del Petrarca No. 123 and the revised version of “Les Cloches de Genève.” Played from score, the former featured a modest tempo and even but slow trills, the melodic line imaginatively played and the final note lingering and almost inaudible. The faster parts of “Cloches” strained the pianist’s technique, the imperfect pedaling enhancing the overy loud statement of the second theme. These “bells” had neither the tenderness at the opening nor heroism in the octave passages.

Often in the first half playing above forte produced a harsh tone and a less-than-polished conception, but with Debussy everything changed. Here Mr. Roberts was in his element. He recently authored an acclaimed biography of the composer, but that’s no insurance that he can play in Debussy the layers of refined sound with unusual pedal effects at a virtuoso level. Worry not, as the Roberts conception of the French master’s music was an ideal combination of head and heart. Beginning with “L’isle joyeuse” and finishing with the iconic “Children’s Corner” Suite, all was in harmonious order. The piano tone became more richly hued, the digital command more secure. “Gradus ad Parnassum” built to a toccata conclusion, the accelerando at the end forceful but without harshness. The set unfolded in a masterly way, each of the six pieces fashioned with long study and a sure touch. I particularly liked the inner voices and accurate skips from “Jimbo’s Lullaby” and the repose and syncopated jazz harmonies of “Golliwog’s Cake-Walk.”

Two additional Debussy works were offered, the short and mysterious “Canope” and “Les collines d’Anacapri.” The latter is from the first book of Preludes (1910) and the folk like material was performed with a lively and bright palette. Debussy has a consummate interpreter in Paul Roberts.

No encore was offered.