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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 John Bayajy at his Pt. Reyes Recital March 27

SONOROUS BACH TRANSCRIPTION HIGHLIGHTS BOYAJY'S DANCE PALACE RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 27, 2011

Marin Pianist John Boyajy’s concerts are never conventional. His usual mix of extended verbal introduction and musical performance can be unsettling if the balance isn’t right. In a Point Reyes Station recital at the Dance Palace March 27 all was in equilibrium, the music sparkling and the commentary persuasive and enlightening.

Before and audience of 90 on a wet and blustery afternoon the program began with Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Sonata in D, Op. 28, an innovative work from 1801. Playing from score as he did the entire concert, Mr. Boyajy choose judicious tempos coupled with an aggressive approach, his scale passages clear and rippling. In the long and convoluted Andante he caught the movement’s humor, and the Scherzo was engaging.

In the finale (Rondo) the pianist played the sweeping arpeggiated passages and syncopated rhythms with élan, the middle section forceful and sometimes a bit loud. The composer’s endless inventiveness led to several deceptive closing cadences and Mr. Boyajy held the music back at times, clarifying the bucolic nature with ample ritards at bars 123 and 192. In all, a muscular and well thought out interpretation.

Four Liszt works followed, the Soirées de Vienne No. 6 being added to the program and introduced in a theatrical but prescient analysis by the artist. The Sonetto Del Petrarca 104, from the second book of the Années de Pèlerinage, began the set with the pianist providing a muscular and declamatory reading. The left hand chordal playing was distinct and the romantic fervor of the work clearly conveyed. In several places small hesitations interrupted the musical line, not caught by the damper pedal.

Late in his life Liszt wrote four works with the title Valse Oubliée, and before intermission Mr. Boyajy selected the first. His pianism provided the necessary charm but the performance was not wholly successful, as the waltz needed a lighter touch in the fast sections.

The sixth Soirée came after intermission, one of nine transcriptions Liszt made of Schubert waltzes. These are “mit schlag” works and the sixth was a favorite of Rosenthal and Horowitz. Here Mr. Boyajy pushed the sound, his deft left hand never overplaying the “om pa pa” rhythms. Another piece from the Italian book of travels, Sposalizio, closed the Liszt group and was characterized by playing of high drama. The pianist favored drawn-out ritards and strongly accented eight bass notes, bringing the right hand into sharp relief. The forte passages were vehement and bordered at times in stridency, perhaps contributed to by the piano’s treble and the flat wood floor in the hall.

Bach’s Chaconne (BWV 1004), the concluding movement in the D Minor Sonata for solo violin, is a pinnacle of violin performance and has been transcribed by composers as disparate as Raff, Siloti, Brahms, Busoni, Hamelin and the conductor Leopold Stokowski. Mr. Boyajy has melded both the Busoni and Siloti versions into a 15-minute work of monumental power, albeit with several of his own additions, and the Pt. Reyes performance was presumably a premiere of sorts. For me it was the highlight of the afternoon, an odyssey of rich sound that in the upper reaches of the piano reflected certain registers of the organ. The pianist was in no hurry throughout, the slow running octave passages in both hands always pungent and the phrasing graceful. The recitative sections were played with welcome surcease to the orchestral sonorities, and here and there an inner voice was emphasized. Surprisingly, the massive final chord was followed with three decidedly unmassive single notes. Were these Mr. Boyajy’s benediction for the triumphant journey?

A standing ovation greeted the Chaconne’s singular accomplishment, but no encore was offered.