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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 ...
CHAMBER REVIEW
The Thursday Musical Club / Thursday, November 18, 2010
Kenn Gartner, piano

Kenn Gartner Speaks of Composer Robert Palmer Nov. 18 in Tiburon

GARTNER'S ECLECTIC PIANISM FEATURED IN TIBURON RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, November 18, 2010

Kenn Gartner is Marin’s eclectic pianist, and his playing Nov. 18 during a short recital in Tiburon’s Community Congregational Church underscored his inquisitive musical and intellectual nature.

Sponsored by the decades-old Thursday Musical Club, the concert featured mostly familiar music of Bach, Haydn, Liszt and Chopin, but with many unconventional touches. Mr. Gartner performed most of these pieces March 21 in a recital for Concerts Grand at San Rafael’s J-B Piano Store, but in the charming hilltop church setting his playing was more secure, expansive and engaging.

Haydn’s E Minor Sonata, Hob. XVI, began the recital in an aggressive style but with surprisingly little pedal. This approach helped clarity throughout the Sonata, as the room’s acoustics were hampered throughout by muffled sound above a mezzo forte. The Adagio was characterized by arching lines in the right hand, even trills and precise block chords. The vivace molto finale again was lightly pedaled but lacked sonic differentiation and subtlety of phrase.

Mr. Gartner seemed to be aiming at harpsichord effects in Bach’s popular Concerto in the Italian Style (S. 971), a three-movement work that demands artistic individuality. The pianist provided same with small appoggiaturas, expressive arpeggios and inner voices in the left hand. He arpeggiated the last chords in the first and final movements, a welcome romantic touch, and held the middle movement penultimate chord pianissimo before deftly resolving into the single note in g. Lovely indeed.

Liszt’s Third Liebestraum, originally a song for low voice and piano, received a justly lyrical performance with a long pedal fermata at the middle, emphasizing the picturesque nature of an evanescent love dream. There were pianistic and memory problems in the performance, ultimately offset by some pearly right-hand scale passages.

American composer Robert Palmer, a teacher of Mr. Gartner, died in July at 95, and the pianist, after an emotional spoken introduction to the audience of 80, played Palmer's popular Toccata Ostinato. Room acoustics aside, the clangorous composition was presented with rhythmic power, differentiation of sound and striking left-hand chords running up and down the keyboard. The loud and curt sforzando ending caught many in hall by surprise. The dissonances and boogie-woogie style still are effective, though the piece was composed as long ago as 1945.

Chopin completed the recital, beginning with the two masterful Nocturnes from Op. 27. The C-Sharp Minor was true to the score, the piu mosso (bar 29) and agitato (measure 53) sections carefully observed. Mr. Gartner favored half pedal in the lyrical return of the modulated theme and produced a captivating ending ascending phrase and C Sharp chord. In The D-Flat Nocturne, a seminal masterpiece, the playing was frankly old fashioned with broken chords and many subtle points of rubato. Some of the right-hand runs did not sound, and in the coda the ascending chordal run in sixths was troublesome for the pianist. A rollicking reading of Chopin’s B Minor Scherzo, Op. 20, finished the formal program, the pianist throwing caution to the winds in the restless first theme and the fiery and taxing coda.

The energetic applause produced two encores, the first Respighi’s Notturno. Here Mr. Gartner emphasized the flowing melody over a gently lapping chordal accompaniment. It has become almost a signature piece for the pianist and recalled a lazy warm summer afternoon rather than the cool November breezes outside. It was followed by Moszkowski's F Major study, from the Op. 76 "Etude de Virtuosité," a favorite of Horowitz and Pletnev and, in Mr. Gartner's performance, a delectable bon bon for the audience.