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Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
BEETHOVEN'S VALENTINE'S DAY GIFT IN RAC SEBASTOPOL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, February 14, 2020
Continuing a season of Redwood Arts Council successes, the Kouzov Duo performed an eclectic Valentine’s Day concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church before an audience of 125. Beethoven’s charming Op. 66 Variations on Mozart’s “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from the opera the Magic Flute was a bouncy ...
LUSH BACH PERFORMANCE IN DENK'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 13, 2020
Memorable artistic interpretations of musical masterpieces are often at extremes, and with the Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (WTC - Book I) that Jeremy Denk played in Weill Hall Feb. 13, the pianist was only sporadically at unique or ebullient musical ends. But his playing wasn’t exactly at opposite...
RECITAL REVIEW

Barbara Nissman On The Oakmont Stage June 14

VIRTUOSIC PROKOFIEV AND LISZT IN NISSMAN'S OAKMONT RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, June 14, 2012

Barbara Nissman’s pianism is best heard on her own terms, with little comparison to current performance practices. This was in evidence June 14 when the venerable West Virginia artist returned to Sonoma County, playing a long recital in the Oakmont Concert Series before 160 in Berger Auditorium.

The recital was long because of the artist’s spoken introduction (both incisive and silly) and because the program was packed with pieces associated with Ms. Nissman’s lengthy career, beginning with study under the Bartok specialist Gyorgy Sandor.

Liszt's transcription of Bach's A Minor Prelude and Fugue (BWV 543) opened the program, a propitious choice. Though piano transcriptions of Bach's organ works from d'Albert, Petri and Busoni were once popular, the Liszt work is the one currently heard and Ms. Nissman gave it a wonderful performance, stressing contrapuntal clarity over sonority. The artist lacks a big sound at the piano and during the entire concert there wasn't a true fortissimo. No matter, clarity prevailed through the repetitive phrasing of the Prelude and there were some beguiling staccato touches in the Fugue. An auspicious and captivating beginning.

Ms. Nissman is billed as a Romantic pianist but Beethoven’s C-Sharp Minor Sonata (Moonlight) was the antithesis of a romantic interpretation, and the cantabile first movement was played fast and almost without rubato, the shift pedal used throughout. The sprightly rhythms of the middle Allegretto were put into high relief with sharp changes in volume and bouncy clarity. In the finale (Presto Agitato) the broken chords were played masterfully and the entire movement had drama, albeit without the last ounce of power.

Six of Prokofiev's Visions Fugitives (Op. 22) and his Op. 28 Third Sonata closed the first half. Ms. Nissman has long been identified with the Russian's compositions and played everything superbly, eliciting in the Visions, each fewer than two minutes, disparate and complex pianistic vignettes. In No.1 Ms. Nissman found a droll, wandering scene, and the nostalgia of the eighth. Toccata rhythms of percussive dissonance were brought out in No. 14, and a Satie-like lethargy of the concluding No. 1.

Prokofiev’s one-movement Op. 28 Sonata has always been a Nissman specialty and she began at a fast clip, the bright and dry piano sound ideal for the driving tempest of the work. Here the artist and composer became one and I cannot remember a better performance of this pointillist and virtuosic Sonata. The accelerando in the coda was potent, the bravura intoxicating.

Three Rachmaninoff Preludes, all in a variant of G, began the second half. The popular and bucolic G major from Op.32 had many individual touches and a unique rush in the concluding bars. The G-Sharp Minor Prelude, from the same set, drew an evocative sound of troika bells and the pianist stressed the cool colors of the work, long associated with Horowitz. From Op. 23, the concluding G-Flat Major Prelude had the requisite lyricism but was also a prosaic in phrasing, needing a touch of repose.

The afternoon's major work, Liszt's B Minor Sonata, surprisingly closed the recital as it usually closes the first half. Quiet endings are seldom part of a final work in a piano recital. Santa Rosa has recently heard the Sonata in the hands of Bronfman, Ohlsson, Hewitt, Spooner and also eight years ago from Ms. Nissman in SRJC's Newman Auditorium. Her performance hasn't changed much, and was again individual in the approach to exhibiting reserved dynamics, attention to structure at the expense of heroics and brilliant scale passages. The artist sporadically sounded frenetic in rapid octaves (forceful but not majestic) but they never failed her, and the velocity of the fugue was compelling. Ms. Nissman worked hard to get color from the hall’s piano treble, with some success, and her legato playing was seductive. In sum, and unconventional and at times perplexing reading of this great work that on balance succeeded because of her strong individual vision.

Applause was large but not loud, but Ms. Nissman was determined to perform Ginastera, choosing the final two of the Dances Argentinas (Op.2) as encores. Associated with the prolific Argentine composer for decades, the pianist played the popular Danza de la Moza donosa and Danza del gaucho matero with palpable energy and attractive guitar-like rhythms. As in the Prokofiev, identification with the works was total and the playing ne plus ultra.