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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 ...
Symphony
CONDUCTOR PLAYOFFS BEGIN IN SANTA ROSA
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 08, 2017
The Santa Rosa Symphony is calling 2017-18 “a choice season” because the next few months offer the audience and the symphony’s board of directors a chance to choose a new conductor from a pool of five candidates. Each candidate will lead a three-concert weekend set this fall and winter, with a final...
Recital
PIANISTIC COMMAND IN SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, October 08, 2017
Nikolay Khozyainov’s Oct. 8 debut at the Green Music Center’s Schroeder Hall was one of those rare moments in a young artist’s career when a performance approaches perfection. From the opening notes of Beethoven’s A-Flat Major Sonata (Op. 110) through a delightful recital ending transcription, the ...
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.