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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, February 06, 2011
Ryan MacEvoy McCullough, piano

Pianist Ryan MacEvoy McCullough at Mendocino College Feb. 6

MUSCULAR DE SILVA AND BEETHOVEN PERFORMANCES HIGHLIGHT MCCULLOUGH RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 06, 2011

Piano recitals often split into two parts, the ostensibly profound scores first and after intermission lighter fare is played. Ryan MacEvoy McCullough’s Feb. 6 recital at Mendocino College unfolded in a different way, the blockbuster works appearing just at intermission and during the entire second half.

Produced by Concerts Grand and luring 35 people away from Super Bowl television sets, the concert began with the slowest performance imaginable of Liszt’s imaginative Sonetto Del Petrarca 123, the left hand figurations distinct and underscoring the work’s lyrical nature. In several places the musical line almost was broken, but just almost. A seldom programmed Etude Tableaux from Rachmaninoff’s Op. 33 followed, its rich harmonies and sleigh bells effect carefully brought out by the pianist.

Less convincing were Chopin’s Mazurkas from Op. 33, and Mr. McCullough seemed to push the sound, especially in the rustic D Major, at the expense of the subtle rhythmic flexibility that characterizes these small masterpieces. The short C Major lacked the metrical “bounce” that Cortot and Friedman bring to the Mazurkas, and in the long B Minor Mazurka the pianist opted for a big sound rather than the pieces’ elusive languor.

Los Angeles-based composer Dante de Silva is a colleague of Mr. McCullough and three of the 35-year old composer’s works were offered. There were an eclectic mix, the first (“Shiburi”) written as a memorial to the late Humboldt County pianist Deborah Clasquin. Its slow wandering motive over four minutes didn’t lead to any concrete conclusions, and the amorphous “Padua” from the “Drive Through Etudes” (2006) was equally unappealing.

Closing the first half was Mr. De Silva’s nervous and pontilistic Piano Sonata No. 1 (“Arcata”), brilliantly played by Mr. McCullough. The episodic Moderato ritimico first movement featured repeated staccato chords in the treble, sections leaping all over like jumping beans. The arpeggios in the poetic middle section were elegant. Mr. McCullough’s attention to detail was everywhere evident in the middle movement, phrases overlapping with the pedal and small cascades of notes in the left hand telling. Bird call effects ended this haunting Largo.

In his spoken notes to the audience the pianist said the finale had a calypso character but if it was there, it was for me lost in the pulsating toccata movement, rhythmic power clearly the goal. Mr. McCullough’s technique was equal to the arduous task, his close hand positions and crossovers going by at high speed. Two forte bass notes announced the coda and the pianist drove everything into a whirlwind conclusion. He identifies with this music and made a compelling case for it.

Beethoven’s final Sonata in C Minor, Op. 111, occupied the program’s last half and received a reading full of dramatic effects and deep feeling. This monumental work was long ago thought to be reserved for pianists of extended years, but Mr. McCullough’s conception easily contradicted this belief. It was a muscular performance, the fugal section almost raucous in places. A deep and overly loud left hand C major chord led through a long pause to the Arietta, one of Beethoven’s greatest creations. The pianist kept an even tempo through the variations and the long strings of trills were played with a deft rise and fall. Mr. McCullough is a modern pianist and the repeats were always played the same. The composer and interpreter delivered peace in this sublime composition.

At the stately three-bar conclusion, the tones dying away, the audience seemed mesmerized and there was no sound in the room for 12 seconds. A standing ovation erupted but no encore was offered.

The reviewer is the producer of the Concerts Grand series.