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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...
Symphony
DVORAK AND TCHAIKOVSKY ORCHESTRAL COLOR AT SO CO PHIL SEASON OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 30, 2017
A concert with curious repertoire and splashy orchestral color launched the 19th season of the Sonoma County Philharmonic Sept. 30 in Santa Rosa High School’s Auditorium. Why curious? Conductor Norman Gamboa paired the ever-popular Dvorak and his rarely heard 1891 trilogy In Nature’s Realm, with t...
Recital
ELEGANT PIANISM IN WATER MUSIC CHARMS HOUSE RECITAL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 03, 2017
A standard component of house concerts often involve listeners hearing the music but also smelling the lasagna and seeing the champagne in the adjacent kitchen. But it was not the case Sept. 3 at Sandra Shen’s Concerts Grand House Recital performance, as her riveting piano playing enthralled the sm...
Chamber
YOUNG MUSICIANS SHINE AT PIANO SONOMA CONCERT
by Lee Ormasa
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
The third in a series of four concerts by Piano Sonoma artists in residence, part of the Vino and Vibrato Series, was held August 1 in Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center. Entitled “The Masters,” the program included works by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. Piano Sonoma is a summer artist-in...
Chamber
THRILLING PROGRAM CLOSES VOM CHAMBER FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, July 30, 2017
The finale of the two-week Valley of the Moon Music Festival closed July 30 with “The Age of Bravura” concert at the Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. The musical selections held to this year’s Festival theme “Schumann’s World - His Music and the Music He Loved.“ This summer Festival features chamber mus...
Chamber
PERIOD INSTRUMENTAL SOUND AT PENULTIMATE VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 30, 2017
In the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival’s penultimate concert July 30 the perennial issue of period and modern instruments was apparent. But only in the concluding Mendelssohn Trio, as the performances in the two first half works easily avoided instrumental comparisons. Clara Schumann’s t...
Chamber
ECLECTIC REPERTOIRE IN FETCHING VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 22, 2017
One of the purposes of summer music festivals is to present unfamiliar music in an attractive and often small audience setting. The Valley of the Moon Music Festival delightfully met these requirements July 22 and 23 with two concerts in the small hall at Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. Classical Sono...
Recital
ADAMS' PHRYGIAN GATES HIGHLIGHTS MORKOSKI FESTIVAL PERFORMANCE
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Attendees at the Molly Morkoski Mendocino Music Festival recital July 22 were in for a treat, both pianistically and if they happened to buy a tasty cookie during intermission. The program included Beethoven’s Op. 27 Moonlight Sonata, Adams’ Phrygian Gates, a surprise add-on of Grieg’s Holberg Suit...
Symphony
SOARING VERDI REQUIEM CLOSES 31ST MENDOCINO FESTIVAL
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
We speak frequently about how there is nothing like the experience of a live performance. Seldom was this truer than at the July 22 closing performance of the two-week Mendocino Music Festival. The Festival Orchestra, conducted by of Allan Pollack, joined with the Festival Chorus in a moving renderi...
Recital
ORGAN REGISTRATION MASTERY HEARD IN WALHAIN'S RECITAL
by Robert Young
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
A group of 65 lucky attendees July 18 had the pleasure of hearing Etienne Walhain’s recital at the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa. Mr. Walhain is organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Tournai, Belgium, and played to a varied program Bach, Franck, and Reger. He used the tonal resource...
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.