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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
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