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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
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.