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Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
Chamber
UNEXPECTED ARENSKY AND MENDELSSOHN BY THE NAVARRO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
The 100 people entering Schroeder Hall Feb. 17 for a Trio Navarro concert were handed a program that appeared to feature two popular piano trios, Mendelssohn and Arensky. But continuing the Navarro’s tradition of repertoire exploration, the pieces were not the usual first Mendelssohn and first Aren...
Recital
GLOVER'S ECLECTIC PROGRAMMING HIGHLIGHT'S CINNABAR RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
Daniel Glover is arguably the busiest virtuoso pianist in the San Francisco Bay area, but rarely is heard in North Bay concerts. So 90 local pianophiles were anxious to hear him Feb. 17 in Petaluma’s charming small Cinnabar Theater, and they were rewarded with an eclectic program of sometimes unfam...
Symphony
MENDELSSOHN'S SCOTTISH SAVES THE EVENING IN SRS WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Monday, February 11, 2019
The audience entering Weill Hall for Santa Rosa Symphony concerts Feb. 9-11 were presented with a program that on first glance appeared a curious patchwork – a great symphony mixed with a seldom heard concerto and two disparate overtures, and a guest conductor unknown locally. Monday night’s concer...
Recital
INTRIGUING BELL-HAYWOOD RECITAL BEFORE FULL HOUSE IN WEILL HALL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, February 08, 2019
A big portion of the capacity audience in Weill Hall February 8th came to hear violinist Joshua Bell’s virtuosity, and were treated as well to splendid playing from Sam Haywood, Mr. Bell’s regular pianist since 2010. The duo performed three engaging sonatas, highlighted by Mr. Bell’s sterling techn...
Symphony
TRIPLE PLAY UKIAH SYMPHONY CONCERT AND TCHAIKOVSKY SERENADE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Over the years the Ukiah Symphony’s concerts have been in the Classical Sonoma Calendar sections, but rarely has this Orchestra, now in its 39th season, had a full winter season concert review. The provocative Jan. 27 program in Mendocino College’s Center Theater seemed a good reason to reacquaint ...
Symphony
JACKSON THEATER WELCOMES A NEW RESIDENT ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Moving to a permanent new performance venue can be a perilous undertaking for an orchestra, with different acoustics, the loyal audience finding the new spot and infrastructure challenges of lighting and lobby and backstage operations. In their first concert Jan. 26 in Windsor’s Jackson Theater the...
Symphony
ECLECTIC PASSIONATE PROGRAMMING AT MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 26, 2019
The Marin Symphony’s second Masterworks concert of the 2018-19 season featured works by John Adams, Sibelius and Brahms, a masterful assembly. In a spoken introduction before the program’s first half, conductor Alasdair Neale primed the audience for the “terra incognita” of Adams’ The Chairman Dance...
RECITAL REVIEW
Ukiah Community Concert Association / Sunday, October 03, 2010
Gwhyneth Chan, piano

Pianist Gwhyneth Chen in Ukiah

VOLCANIC TRANSCRIPTIONS AND DELIBERATE NOCTURNES HIGHLIGHT UKIAH RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 03, 2010

An appreciative audience greeted Gwhyneth Chen Oct. 3 when the pianist launched the Ukiah Community Concerts Association’s new season. And the artist’s mood, mostly lyrical and relaxed, seemed to match that of the audience of 225 that crowded the New Life Community Church.

The program contained five Chopin Nocturnes, including the E-Flat as an encore, and in the initial Op. 32 works a recital-long pattern emerged. Ms. Chen possesses a lovely touch, deft control of cantilena, variation in the repeated sections, crystalline scale playing and trills that are even and subtle. However, the tempos throughout the concert were deliberate, which mostly worked and occasionally did not. In the mid section of the Op. 32, No. 2, she was able to keep the melodic line going in the outer fingers while playing accompanying chords in the same hand. The last big repeat was played piano, the effect lovely and benefiting from a studied voice leading.

Chopin’s Fourth Scherzo in E, Op. 54, followed and again was a case study in lovely scale playing, dropped notes in the coda notwithstanding. It was a slow and dreamy conception of a joyous work, lacking perhaps only the last bit of drama. The lyrical mid section in C Sharp was a delicate waltz, half pedaled.

The first half concluded with the Schulz-Evler transcription of Strauss’ Blue Danube, a recital showpiece made famous by the incomparable Lhevinne recording of 1930, and by Bolet’s Carnegie Hall recital record of 1974. There is some controversy that the mysterious Schulz-Evler didn’t write the work at all, and Moszkowski did. In any case, here the three-note introduction was played ever so slowly but raised the anticipation level for the entrance of the immortal Viennese theme. Ms. Chen’s tonal palate became strident when she pushed the sound, lacking the color of the Nocturnes, but it’s that kind of piece. In the powerful final upward run, the pianist took the brief “hiccup” in the middle, as does Lhevinne but not Bolet.

Two Chopin Nocturnes from Op. 37 opened the second half, again ones not often played. The legato playing in the choral-like passages of the G Minor was elegant, some I think played with the sostenuto pedal. The G Major work, from 1839, became a captivating barcarolle in Ms. Chen’s hands, with a rocking bass and rich hues in the treble. The Association’s piano, with a new action, had substantial sustain in the treble and Ms. Chen made full use of the tonal “bloom,” quiet notes reaching easily to the far back of the spacious hall. On balance, her slow tempos derailed the long line and the music began to wander, though it was a conception in every way to admire.

An early Chopin work, the Op. 2 “La Ci Darem La Mano” Variations, came next and though not a profound work from the Polish master, was good to hear in concert. The filigree playing was estimable, interrupted by dramatic sforzandos and Ms. Chen’s remarkable scales in both hands. The big four march-like bridge passes lent structure to this sprawling composition. It was Chopin’s Paris calling card and a favorite for the Ukiah audience.

Vladimir Horowitz’ Carmen Variations closed the concert with an aural cascade of notes at high volume and speed, handled well by Ms. Chen. Composed originally in the 1920s and altered over the years, the work takes a gypsy dance from Bizet’s last opera and contains a large array of virtuoso technical demands, including the diabolical interlocking octaves in the coda. It was brought off with panache and insouciance, rolling to a powerful ending and a standing ovation.

The one encore, Chopin’s Op. 9, No. 2 Nocturne, was played with consummate grace, lush colors and at a languorous tempo.