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Chamber
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 08, 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...
Choral and Vocal
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...
Chamber
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...
Chamber
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
Chamber
BEETHOVEN'S VALENTINE'S DAY GIFT IN RAC SEBASTOPOL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, February 14, 2020
Continuing a season of Redwood Arts Council successes, the Kouzov Duo performed an eclectic Valentine’s Day concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church before an audience of 125. Beethoven’s charming Op. 66 Variations on Mozart’s “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from the opera the Magic Flute was a bouncy ...
LUSH BACH PERFORMANCE IN DENK'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 13, 2020
Memorable artistic interpretations of musical masterpieces are often at extremes, and with the Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (WTC - Book I) that Jeremy Denk played in Weill Hall Feb. 13, the pianist was only sporadically at unique or ebullient musical ends. But his playing wasn’t exactly at opposite...
BROWNE, PAREMSKI HEAD STELLAR CAST AT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 09, 2020
The Feb. 9 performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony offered a healthy dose of 21st century music firmly bound to the 19th. Matt Browne’s first symphony, “The Course of Empire”—based on a series of five paintings by Thomas Cole, who founded the Hudson River School of American painting in the 1820s—emp...
FRENCH ORCHESTRAL MUSIC A FIRST FOR THE SO CO PHILHARMONIC
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 02, 2020
Over many years the Sonoma County Philharmonic has played little French music, but perhaps this oversight was corrected Feb. 2 in a splendid all-Gallic program Feb. 1 and 2 in the Jackson Theater. Classical Sonoma reviewed the Sunday afternoon concert. In his eighth conducting season with the So C...
Symphony
POLISH MUSICAL WORLDS GLOW BRIGHT IN NFM WROCLAW WEILL PERFORMANCE
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, February 01, 2020
The NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic, with conductor Giancarlo Guerrero, gave a concert of enormous energy and emotional impact on Feb.1 to a small audience in Weill Hall. This orchestra has been a major cultural force in Poland since 1949, playing under many renowned conductors and has been committed to pr...
Opera
EXTRAVAGANT ARIAS IN NEXT GENERATION TENORS GALA VALLEJO CONCERT
by Mark Kratz
Saturday, February 01, 2020
“Beautiful, strange, and unnatural…” said orchestra conductor Thomas Conlin when speaking of the tenor voice. One of the coveted voice types of the opera world, the tenor voice is known for it’s piercing tones and soaring, unnatural high notes. The iconic image of the Pagliacci clown (in the famed...
RECITAL REVIEW
Concerts Grand / Sunday, October 30, 2011
Frank Wiens, piano

Frank Wiens Plays Falla's Cubana Oct. 30 at Mendocino College (G. Louie Photo)

WIENS' SPANISH PROGRAM CHARMS CONCERTS GRAND AUDIENCE AT MENDOCINO COLLEGE

by Mendo Cinco
Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pianist Frank Wiens is a popular visitor to Northern California concert halls as recitalist and lecturer, but has strangely been absent from Mendocino County for decades. Under the auspices of the Concerts Grand series, this oversight was corrected Oct. 30 in a memorable recital at Mendocino College’s intimate Choral Room.

In a program that was almost exclusively Spanish music, Mr. Wiens began with chaste readings of two Soler Sonatas, in D Minor (DR 11) and D Major (DR 84). There was no rushing in the first, a beguiling reading, and the second was more Scarlatti like with a whirl of repeated notes, sharply-etched ornaments and an artful blending of themes. The D Major was a specialty of the late Spanish pianist Alicia de Larrocha, as were additional works that don’t attract many virtuoso pianists.

Two Albeniz pieces from his Iberia Suite came next, Evocacion and the familiar Triana. The pianist had exceptional rhythmic and pianissimo control in the first, the top notes singing and the many ritards subtle and impressionistic. In the F-Sharp Minor Triana (a suburb of Seville) Mr. Wiens evoked the flavor of a fiesta with dramatic gypsy chord playing.

A highlight of the afternoon was Falla’s four Pieces Espagnoles, from 1908, and probably a North Bay premiere performance. The opening Jota was a dance of percussive and brassy phrases, carefully gauged by Mr. Wiens, as was the seductive Cubana. Here the artist was in no hurry, underplaying the many modulations and meandering into unexpected sonic thickets. The third section, Montańesa, was played unaffectedly and with charm, and some use of the sostenuto pedal. It elicited a solo “bravo” from a listener, moving the artist to hold up one finger that indicated that the final Andaluza was to come. In this section Mr. Wiens’ playing sounded castanets in a Flamenco style, a bright dance that was improvisational but of course was pianistically impeccable.

The first half’s concluding work, Liszt’s Spanish Rhapsody, brought the audience of 37 to its feet in loud applause. The opening surprisingly did not have a fast tempo, with ample pedal point, and the rapid right hand arpeggiated chords resounded and did the accurate skips. The pianist sought clarity over speed in the tsunami of notes and the syncopated rhythms (Madrid rhythms?) and quick glissandos were exciting to hear. The standard ending was chosen over the more powerful ending fashioned by Busoni.

In a piece dedicated to the Spanish pianist Ricardo Vińes, Rodrigo’s toccata-like A l’ombre de Torre Bermeja began the second half in a rhapsodic vein far removed from the preceding Lisztian fireworks. The lyrical middle section was played elegantly, and the following bell phrases in both hands were telling. Mr. Wiens underscored the abstruse dissonances. The same could be said of his playing of two Granados works, the familiar Maiden and the Nightingale and Los Requiebros (Flattery) from the monumental Suite Goyescas. The long melody in the tenor in Maiden was captivatingly played, the many trills light and even, and ending with dainty filigree. The second work seemed to be too sectionalized, lacking clarity, the double notes never lucid.

Debussy’s La Puerta Del Vino from Book Two of his Preludes was the penultimate programmed work, and here was projected boldly with boisterous phrasing. A more boisterous piece, the Horowitz transcription of Bizet’s opera Carmen, concluded for formal program in grand style. The right-hand scale playing was very good, the big sound alleviated by short sections of repose. Mr. Wiens half pedaled many of the runs, the terrific Bizet themes pealing out with virtuosity, albeit not Horowitz, that seemed to push the limits of the piano and even the small Choral room.

One encore was offered, Mompou’s No. 6 from his Cançion i Danse Suite. The opening part (cantabile espressivo) was performed elegantly, in sharp contrast to the explosive rhythms of the concluding dance. A perfect encore.

The recital, played without score and in a snazzy concert tuxedo, was underwritten by Dorothy Sugawara, with area management by pianist and teacher Elizabeth MacDougall. Frank Wiens has at last ignited local interest in his artistry, to be on display again when he plays Grieg’s A Minor Concerto with the Ukiah Symphony Dec. 3 and 4 in Center Theater. A pianist worth discovering.