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Symphony
CONDUCTOR PLAYOFFS BEGIN IN SANTA ROSA
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 08, 2017
The Santa Rosa Symphony is calling 2017-18 “a choice season” because the next few months offer the audience and the symphony’s board of directors a chance to choose a new conductor from a pool of five candidates. Each candidate will lead a three-concert weekend set this fall and winter, with a final...
Symphony
DVORAK AND TCHAIKOVSKY ORCHESTRAL COLOR AT SO CO PHIL SEASON OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 30, 2017
A concert with curious repertoire and splashy orchestral color launched the 19th season of the Sonoma County Philharmonic Sept. 30 in Santa Rosa High School’s Auditorium. Why curious? Conductor Norman Gamboa paired the ever-popular Dvorak and his rarely heard 1891 trilogy In Nature’s Realm, with t...
Recital
ELEGANT PIANISM IN WATER MUSIC CHARMS HOUSE RECITAL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 03, 2017
A standard component of house concerts often involve listeners hearing the music but also smelling the lasagna and seeing the champagne in the adjacent kitchen. But it was not the case Sept. 3 at Sandra Shen’s Concerts Grand House Recital performance, as her riveting piano playing enthralled the sm...
Chamber
YOUNG MUSICIANS SHINE AT PIANO SONOMA CONCERT
by Lee Ormasa
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
The third in a series of four concerts by Piano Sonoma artists in residence, part of the Vino and Vibrato Series, was held August 1 in Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center. Entitled “The Masters,” the program included works by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. Piano Sonoma is a summer artist-in...
Chamber
THRILLING PROGRAM CLOSES VOM CHAMBER FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, July 30, 2017
The finale of the two-week Valley of the Moon Music Festival closed July 30 with “The Age of Bravura” concert at the Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. The musical selections held to this year’s Festival theme “Schumann’s World - His Music and the Music He Loved.“ This summer Festival features chamber mus...
Chamber
PERIOD INSTRUMENTAL SOUND AT PENULTIMATE VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 30, 2017
In the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival’s penultimate concert July 30 the perennial issue of period and modern instruments was apparent. But only in the concluding Mendelssohn Trio, as the performances in the two first half works easily avoided instrumental comparisons. Clara Schumann’s t...
Chamber
ECLECTIC REPERTOIRE IN FETCHING VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 22, 2017
One of the purposes of summer music festivals is to present unfamiliar music in an attractive and often small audience setting. The Valley of the Moon Music Festival delightfully met these requirements July 22 and 23 with two concerts in the small hall at Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. Classical Sono...
Recital
ADAMS' PHRYGIAN GATES HIGHLIGHTS MORKOSKI FESTIVAL PERFORMANCE
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Attendees at the Molly Morkoski Mendocino Music Festival recital July 22 were in for a treat, both pianistically and if they happened to buy a tasty cookie during intermission. The program included Beethoven’s Op. 27 Moonlight Sonata, Adams’ Phrygian Gates, a surprise add-on of Grieg’s Holberg Suit...
Symphony
SOARING VERDI REQUIEM CLOSES 31ST MENDOCINO FESTIVAL
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
We speak frequently about how there is nothing like the experience of a live performance. Seldom was this truer than at the July 22 closing performance of the two-week Mendocino Music Festival. The Festival Orchestra, conducted by of Allan Pollack, joined with the Festival Chorus in a moving renderi...
Recital
ORGAN REGISTRATION MASTERY HEARD IN WALHAIN'S RECITAL
by Robert Young
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
A group of 65 lucky attendees July 18 had the pleasure of hearing Etienne Walhain’s recital at the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa. Mr. Walhain is organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Tournai, Belgium, and played to a varied program Bach, Franck, and Reger. He used the tonal resource...
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