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Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now they seem to be on almost ever...
Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the season’s final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church, as the performers...
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.