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Opera
SPARKLING CIMAROSA OPERA HIGHLIGHTS MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kathryn Stewart
Friday, July 13, 2018
The Classical music era was a time of extraordinary innovation. Dominated by composers from the German-speaking countries, the period witnessed the handiwork of masterpieces by two classical giants, Haydn and Mozart. Both composers put forth a tremendous catalog of masterful works and perhaps to our...
Symphony
!PURA VIDA! A SONIC TRIUMPH FOR SO CO PHIL IN THRILLING COSTA RICA TOUR CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Long anticipated events, such as a great sporting game, gourmet feast, holiday trip or a concert, occasionally fall way short of expectations. The results don’t measure to expectations. With the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Costa Rica concert June 19, the performance exceeded any heated or tenuou...
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...
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.