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Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
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