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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...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
BEETHOVEN'S VALENTINE'S DAY GIFT IN RAC SEBASTOPOL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, February 14, 2020
Continuing a season of Redwood Arts Council successes, the Kouzov Duo performed an eclectic Valentine’s Day concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church before an audience of 125. Beethoven’s charming Op. 66 Variations on Mozart’s “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from the opera the Magic Flute was a bouncy ...
LUSH BACH PERFORMANCE IN DENK'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 13, 2020
Memorable artistic interpretations of musical masterpieces are often at extremes, and with the Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (WTC - Book I) that Jeremy Denk played in Weill Hall Feb. 13, the pianist was only sporadically at unique or ebullient musical ends. But his playing wasn’t exactly at opposite...
RECITAL REVIEW
Concerts Grand / Sunday, October 17, 2010
Sara Daneshpour, piano

Sara Daneshpour Receiving Applause Following Prokofiev's Toccata

DANESHPOUR'S VIRTUOSITY WOWS AUDIENCE IN CONCERTS GRAND SEASON OPENER

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sara Daneshpour’s Oct. 17 recital launching the 8th Concerts Grand season began with what might be called anxious anticipation from the audience in SRJC’s Newman Auditorium. The program contained mostly brawny virtuoso works, and the first appearance of the petite pianist brought to many minds the thought that musical demands could trump the young artist’s abilities. At the recital’s end, no one in the hall had any such doubts. Big things do come in small packages.

Haydn’s F Major Sonata (Hob XVI/23) began the program and Daneshpour’s supple and commanding technique was immediately put on display, the Moderato architecturally constructed and the finger staccato and pearly scales telling. The center of the piece is the captivating Adagio and here the pianist lavished chaste phrasing, underscoring the pensive character of the music. The concluding Presto was an aggressive romp, never pounded and the quiet sections under complete control. It’s difficult to play really fast and piano but this pianist does it easily.

Liszt “Rigoletto” transcription followed, a vocal tour de force from the famous quartet of Verdi’s 1859 opera. Here the playing became outsized, the thematic projection broad and often thunderous. Ms. Daneshpour took her time in the early declamatory parts and slowed gently before the three sets of descending octaves at the end, the effect bringing many in the audience of 90 to standing applause. The pianist wasn’t limited to just playing running octaves, as she commanded rarely-heard legato octaves just prior to the coda. Jorge Bolet's recording comes to mind.

Brahms’ forceful Paganini Variations from Book II concluded the first half in a blaze of jagged and impressive virtuosity. The 14 short variations demand a consummate technique from any executant, and Ms. Daneshpour played each with mastery. Musically her playing generated several lovely inner voices (third variation) and awe-inspiring accuracy with the treacherous right-hand skips. It wasn’t a note-perfect reading, and the piano sound could be “clattering” at times, but such trivial shortcomings vanished in the grandeur of the performance. A formidable mountain of music, prodigiously climbed. A standing ovation was the artist’s reward.

Honoring the Schumann bicentennial, The Op. 1 “Abegg” Variations opened the second half, three variations and a brilliant finale. Here even and fast scale passages are the norm and they were played with a deft touch, the tempos fast and the cross-hand technique infallible. Rachmaninoff’s richly-scored Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42, came next and Ms. Daneshpour lavished the most color of the afternoon on haunting 20 variations from 1932. The stately theme foretold a journey of many and varied stanzas, the textures luxuriant but spiced with dissonances uncommon in Rachmaninoff’s music. Ms. Daneshpour’s playing here turned orchestral, variations five through seven positively sparkling. Her touch changed with each new section and she never seemed to be in a hurry. The playing had mystery, even when she used two fingers to hammer bass notes until the piano fairly screamed, and once she had four fingers on a single key.

Prokofiev’s perpetual motion Op. 11 Toccata concluded the program, just over four minutes of driving rhythms and high-volume repeated notes, played like a machine. Of course the performance brought down the house, but surprisingly didn’t elicit the expect encore.

Prior to the formal program Ms. Daneshpour honored the memory of two Concerts Grand patrons that recently died, Jim Burns and Ron Antonioli, with a sensitive and appropriately sad performance of the Scriabin Prelude in C Sharp, Op. 9, for the left hand. The emotional effect was palpable.

The reviewer is the producer of the Concerts Grand series