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Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
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...
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.