Home  Reviews  Articles  Calendar  Presenters  Add Event     
Choral and Vocal
A SEASONAL MESSIAH WITH BALANCE AND HEFT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 10, 2017
The mid-December concert season seems for jaded reviewers to invariably include a Messiah performance, and perhaps a Messiah in a long string of similar and mundane performances. This was decidedly not the case when San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque mounted Handel’s eminent three-part 1742 Orato...
Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony concert featured two elegant and refined guests: music director candidate Andrew Grams and pianist Stewart Goodyear. Both displayed dazzling technique and consummate artistry, but Goodyear was the more consistent of the two. Some of Grams’ inconsistency may have st...
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 ...
RECITAL REVIEW
Concerts Grand / Sunday, February 26, 2012
Lara Downes, piano

Lara Downes Playing Sheng's Variation Fugato Feb. 26 (Joan Louie Photo)

13 COMPOSERS CHASE BACH'S GOLDBERG ARIA AT LARA DOWNES' NEWMAN HALL RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 26, 2012

A popular way to reach a wide classical audience is to find a musical niche, playing unfamiliar works with an uncommon passion. Lara Downes has been an ingratiating niche pianist for years, presenting programs of Roy Harris, William Balcom and Aaron Jay Kernis, and lately a unique recital built around Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Before a Newman Auditorium audience Feb. 26 Ms. Downes brought her “13 Ways of Looking at Goldberg” program in the fifth recital of the Concerts Grand season.

The set of 13 “re-imaginings” of the Goldberg (BWV 988) comes from 2004 and enlists 13 contemporary composers contributing works of fewer than four minutes related to the famous 32-measure aria. The composers are either well known names (Balcom, Higdon, Sheng, Del Tredici, Foss, Hersch, Gothóni) or obscure, but each sheds light on Bach’s melodic genius and along the way exemplifies manifold moods. The pianist’s verbal descriptions were pithy and informative.

Ms. Downes read from an I Pad electronic score throughout, each page actuated by a foot switch next to the piano’s shift pedal, but mostly she played scant attention to the notes. Her playing of the opening a closing Bach aria was brisk, more in the style of the 1955 Gould recording than the newly lauded Simone Dinnerstein reading. Especially notable in the unfolding panoply of contemporary renditions were Fred Lerdahl’s Chasing Goldberg and C. Curtis-Smith’s Rube Goldberg Variation. Here Ms. Downes played with a facile technique and a chaste tone, her pedaling and cross-hand execution deft. None of the works require an orchestral sound and the artist was content to underscore a natural progression of the 13, the actual order selected by Ms. Downes and recently recorded. She never seemed to be in a hurry to get anywhere and the lovely Melancholy Minuet of Fred Hersch was performed with a nostalgic glow.

After prolonged applause Ms. Downes offered a rare gem from the nonagenarian Dave Brubeck, a five-minute improvisatory piece that moved irresistibly through many keys and moods, the harmonies piquant. The juxtaposition of the encore with the 13 composers and the always contemporary Bach was adroit and convincing.

Ms. Downes substituted for the originally announced program of pianist Evgeni Mikhailov, who was unable to obtain a visa in Moscow.

The reviewer is the producer of the Concerts Grand series.