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Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
BEETHOVEN'S VALENTINE'S DAY GIFT IN RAC SEBASTOPOL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, February 14, 2020
Continuing a season of Redwood Arts Council successes, the Kouzov Duo performed an eclectic Valentine’s Day concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church before an audience of 125. Beethoven’s charming Op. 66 Variations on Mozart’s “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from the opera the Magic Flute was a bouncy ...
LUSH BACH PERFORMANCE IN DENK'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 13, 2020
Memorable artistic interpretations of musical masterpieces are often at extremes, and with the Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (WTC - Book I) that Jeremy Denk played in Weill Hall Feb. 13, the pianist was only sporadically at unique or ebullient musical ends. But his playing wasn’t exactly at opposite...
RECITAL REVIEW

Pianist Ryan MacEvoy McCullough at Mendocino College Feb. 6

MUSCULAR DE SILVA AND BEETHOVEN PERFORMANCES HIGHLIGHT MCCULLOUGH RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 6, 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.