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Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
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.