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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
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.