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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, March 20, 2011
Evgeni Mikhailov, piano

Marin Pianist Joan Weinstein Greets Evgeni Mikhailov March 20

DRAMATIC 19TH CENTURY RUSSIAN WORKS HIGHLIGHT MIKHAILOV'S IMPOSING SRJC RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 20, 2011

Dark and rainy skies parted March 20 at Santa Rosa Junior College for Concerts Grand’s last recital of the Santa Rosa season. However, the sun and warmth quickly brought a new and musical storm into the area, Russian pianist Evgeni Mikhailov’s virtuosity presiding through the works of Chopin, Schumann, Tchaikovsky and Mussorgsky.

Before 101 pianophiles in the small Newman Auditorium Mr. Mikhailov, having just ended a 25-concert American tour playing three concertos with a Polish orchestra, changed the printed program and began with five Chopin Preludes from Op. 28, surprisingly juxtaposing the opening C Major with Preludes 20 through 24. Here he set the stage for the entire concert, the playing outsized and with the C major an agitated and restlessness conception was established. The massive and majestic chords of the C Minor (No. 20) dissolved into a tranquil calm, and the G Minor Prelude was played with bravura in the left-hand octave solo. The D Minor was angry and defiant but from my seat I could not see if the artist changed fingers on the final fortissimo repeated notes in the bass. Each had substantial heft and asymmetrical timing.

Schumann’s lovely Scenes from Childhood (Kinderscenen), Op. 15, followed and was a reading that evoked memories of the Valentina Lisitsa performance from 2009 from the same stage. Here there were many deft touches, such as the long decresendo at the end of the Wichteige Begebenheit section and the elegant articulation in Fast zu Ernst. The well-known Träumerei and “The Poet Speaks” parts were not hurried, Schumann’s backward look at his youth in a small German town palpable. The Ukrainian Lisitsa would have been moved by the Kazan artist’s transversal of this fresh and memorable score.

Completing the first half was Mikhail Pletnev’s popular transcription of the Suite from Tchaikovsky’s Ballet “Nutcracker," laat played in Santa Rosa in 2009 by the youthful Armenian charmer Nareh Arghamanyan. Ms. Arghamanyan’s interpretation was diffuse and poetic and Mr. Mikhailov’s was red hot and impulsive. The insistent Tchaikovsky themes in the 17-minute composition were everywhere evident and the pianist opted for the difficult to accomplish combination of sonority and clarity. His damper pedal control here was impressive and the evocative bells of the second section were delicate and richly hued. The pianistic skips in the “Tarantelle” and the extended arpeggios in the “Intermezzo” spun out a noble theme, ending quietly with just a touch of right-hand flourish. There was sudden audience applause at the conclusion of the “Trepek”, a rare occurrence in a solo piano work, and striking contrapuntal figures in the Andante maestoso, the work’s longest section.

It was a scenic and convincing interpretation, and brought the hall to its feet in applause.

Mussorgsky’s monumental Pictures at an Exhibition comprised the entire second half, a ten-section recreation of paintings of one Viktor Hartman that the composer had seen in St. Petersburg in 1874. It’s a landmark of 19th century pianism, played last here thirty years ago by French pianist John Philippe Collard. Mr. Mikhailov began the opening soforzandos rather fast with an insistent ostinato left hand and some unique inner voices that never covered the main melody. His right hand repeated chords and expressive trills were fluently played throughout, and the Great Bogatyar Gate of Kiev had a brawny outline as well as resounding power and, yes, a lot of loudness. In difficult hand positions Mr. Mikhailov was able to maintain both the work’s required momentum and the return to the “Prominade” and a forceful second theme based on Russian chant. The pianist played the ending left-hand tremolos sonorously.

With ravenous applause a quiet encore was called for but Mr. Mikhailov was clearly not ready for bagatelles, and thundered a controlled performance of Rachmaninoff’s D Major Etude Tableaux, Op. 33, No. 9. It was a courageous choice, noble in it power and drama.

The reviewer is the producer of the Concerts Grand piano series.