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Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
RECITAL REVIEW
Ukiah Community Concert Association / Sunday, October 3, 2010
Gwhyneth Chan, piano

Pianist Gwhyneth Chen in Ukiah

VOLCANIC TRANSCRIPTIONS AND DELIBERATE NOCTURNES HIGHLIGHT UKIAH RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 3, 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.