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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 ...
REVIEW

Pianist Nina Tichman

CRYSTALLINE SCHUBERT

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, March 11, 2010

Nina Tichman is a pianist with an artistic vision that puts clarity and proportion above all else. In her Oakmont Concert Series recital March 10, one of many she has played in Berger Auditorium, these sterling qualities perfectly served the concert’s opening music of Schubert, in this case the E Flat Sonata from 1817, D. 568.

Ms. Tichman’s subtle phrasing and nuanced cantabile, added to the bright treble of the piano, caught inimitably the wistful nature of the opening movement. Damper pedal was judiciously applied and there was a light touch throughout. The G Minor Andante Molto movement was played with mystery, almost a question and answer, and was lovely. Often Schubert’s piano sonatas can seem far too long, but it’s a heavenly length for musicians, and in the final three movements there was not a forced note or an unclear phrase. The long lines were relaxed and the many modulations in the finale deftly rendered. It was a perfectly chaste reading of a rarely-played score and for me the recital’s highlight.

Chopin’s often played Polonaise Fantasie, Op. 61, followed, and Ms. Tichman continued in a lyrical and understated vein. There was no sonic emphasis on the bass notes at the opening, and the pianist was in no hurry to stress the tone poem parts of this marvelous composition. It was a restrained performance, the loose formal structure proving no obstacle for Ms. Tichman’s transparent playing, the forward-looking chromatic harmonies unfolding in sharp relief. The final A flat chord, marked Fortissimo, was played that way, breaking the quiet of the long tenuto and soft left-hand trills.

After intermission four of Debussy’s 12 Etudes from 1915 were heard, pieces rarely seen on a concert program. Walter Gieseking thought the set as difficult as either of Chopin’s Ops. 10 and 25, and Ms. Tichman began with Pour les tierces and Pour les Degrés chromatiques. The latter was the more interesting, the artist’s right hand busy in perpetual motion and the left hand quickly playing in the treble. The barcarolle-like Pour les Agréments contained parts of Debussy’s La Cathedral engloutie and here the pedaling was precise and embellishments telling. The final Pour les Octaves was brilliantly played, but at a moderate tempo.

Contemporary composer Stefan Heucke (b. 1959) has written many compositions with stark social themes, and has just completed a set of Preludes, Op. 61, that incorporates Schumann’s imaginative comment about Chopin’s Preludes: “sketches, ruins and eagle wings.” Ms. Tichman played four from score, the In Moto Scorrendo and Molto moderato Preludes reflecting Chopin’s muse, at least on an initial hearing. The former had a whirl of notes, many sections in contrary motion, and great washes of sound with the damper pedal. The Molto moderato had a polonaise flavor, but one with a dissonant nobility. The pianist played the final Prelude (Sehr langsam und schwer) as a dirge march, deep bass notes sounding as tone clusters and contrasting with chords high in the treble. The effect was intense but never offensive. These are robust works.

Concluding the recital were three short Rachmaninoff works, beginning with the early Polichinelle from Op. 3. It’s not an ingratiating work, perhaps because of its meandering length, similar in rhythms to the compact and powerful Oriental Sketch of 1917. The pianist played it well but the G-Sharp Minor Prelude of Op. 32 quickly overshadowed the Polichinelle. Here Ms. Tichman’s ringing sonorities resembled sleigh bells on a snowy Russian night, musical clarity and lucid textures again her achieved goal.

The D Major Etude-Tableaux, Op. 39, No. 9, is a work of high drama, a formidable task for a pianist with lots of big chords. Ms. Tichman adopted a sober tempo, underscoring the work’s architecture at the expense of weighty sonority, and the approach did not quite unlock Rachmaninoff’s passion and powerful rhythmic surges.

No encore was offered.