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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, November 20, 2011
Elena Kuschnerova, piano

Elena Kuschnerova in Newman Auditorium Nov. 20

PASSIONATE SCHUMANN AND POETIC TCHAIKOVSKY IN ELENA KUSCHNEROVA PIANO RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 20, 2011

Danish virtuoso Egon Petri once commented that most pianists “spend their melodic purse in small coin.” Elena’s Kuschnerova, in her second Concerts Grand appearance Nov. 20, would have none of that approach, playing a mercurial recital that left nothing on the table in the wake of her potent musical personality.

In SRJC’s Newman Auditorium the Russian dynamo, now living in Baden-Baden, took on Schumann’s mighty Symphonic Etudes, Op. 13, as the first half’s major work. These 12 studies are in the form of variations and require of the pianist a big chord technique, wide left-hand skips and the ability to carry perpetual motion sections to their extremes. In the Agitato fifth variation with its interlocking chords the playing was scintillating, and the brilliant final study in D Flat was a triumph of bravura. It was a brawny approach to one of Schumann’s greatest masterpieces, sonically thrilling. The audience of 115 rose as one in an ovation.

Six of Tchaikovsky’s pictures “Seasons”, Op. 37b, were played to begin the concert, and with a curious twist. The artist, after recalling her recital on the same stage three years ago, prefaced each of the six vignettes on the Russian months with a reading of the poems the composer appended to the score. And she declaimed short poems in richly-hued Russian, telling listeners that it was important to hear the words as the composer did when finishing the work in 1876. It was effective theater and combined perfectly with the selected months: May, June, July, August, October and December. In these works the pianist exhibited a light and often elegant touch, the opening arpeggios of “May” carrying to the top row and the Andante Doloroso e Molto Cantabile of “October” conveyed a haunting sadness. It was playing of conviction and occasional introspection. The Christmas “Noel” in A Flat was taken at a quick pace, a good thing due to the multiple repetitions of the waltz theme, and the generous phrase-ending rubatos were deftly performed.

Ms. Kuschnerova opened the all-Liszt second part as she did in the first, presenting mostly lyrical works and started with a chaste performance of the Third Consolation in D Flat, using the shift pedal continuously for color. In the six Liszt pieces the artist’s sovereign pianistic command was everywhere on display, the upper body in constant movement but both feet firmly on the damper and shift pedals. The second of the three Concert Etudes, “La Leggierezza,” was played with graceful arabesques and varied repeats, more delicate than powerful.

Power was on display in the concluding Mephisto Waltz No. 1, the untiring broken octaves and granitic chord playing seeming able to raise the cool temperature of the hall. The only pianistic missteps occurred in Sonetto 104 and in the transcription of the Schumann song “Widmung” where finger slips marred the otherwise ardent tonal portrayal of romantic dedication.

A month previously in the same venue and with the same piano Jon Nakamatsu played the three Sonetti Del Petrarca, and here Ms. Kuschnerova choose two of them, 123 and 104. The contrast between the two artists in these works was pronounced, as Mr. Nakamatsu lingered over many passages and stressed tonal color, where Ms. Kuschnerova choose an agitated approach with sporadic elegant phrases. However, the atmospheric ending of the Sonetto 123 captivated the audience, the pianissimo final b flat a flat notes hanging ethereally in the air for many seconds.

Three encores were demanded, beginning with the Siloti transcription of Bach’s B Minor Prelude, and the playing emphasized the softly descending harmonic patterns and inner voices in the left hand. Prokofiev’s explosive “Mercutio” movement from the 1937 ballet “Romeo and Juliet” and the March from the opera “The Love For Three Oranges” followed, each receiving carefully gauged but volcanic interpretations.

Elena Kuschnerova at 40 is playing at the top of her game, a fearless and passionate pianist in the music she wishes to present to the public.

The reviewer is the producer of the Concerts Grand series.