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Opera
SPARKLING CIMAROSA OPERA HIGHLIGHTS MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kathryn Stewart
Friday, July 13, 2018
The Classical music era was a time of extraordinary innovation. Dominated by composers from the German-speaking countries, the period witnessed the handiwork of masterpieces by two classical giants, Haydn and Mozart. Both composers put forth a tremendous catalog of masterful works and perhaps to our...
Symphony
!PURA VIDA! A SONIC TRIUMPH FOR SO CO PHIL IN THRILLING COSTA RICA TOUR CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Long anticipated events, such as a great sporting game, gourmet feast, holiday trip or a concert, occasionally fall way short of expectations. The results don’t measure to expectations. With the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Costa Rica concert June 19, the performance exceeded any heated or tenuou...
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...
RECITAL REVIEW
Green Music Center / Saturday, October 13, 2012
Karina Gauvin, soprano; Michael McMahon, piano.

Soprano Karina Gauvin

GAUVIN SPINS FRENCH SONG SORCERY IN INAUGURAL WEILL HALL VOCAL RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 13, 2012

An incessant topic of audience conversation about acoustics in the newly-opened Weill Hall – where is best to sit, can the oboe be heard - has tended since the inaugural gala weekend to overshadow the actual performances. Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin put many of those notions to rest Oct. 13 with a splendid recital of mostly French art song before a half-full house.

With pianist Michael McMahon, Ms. Gauvin presented six groups of songs in French that, although it’s the singer’s native tongue, the French language can have too much sonic familiarity over a full recital. Singing in German or Italian, which Ms. Gauvin also commands, tends to have greater variety of style and of course different vowel and distinct sounds. The soprano avoided sonic monotony with richly varied tone colors and vocal expressiveness.

The singer, resplendent in a flowing blue gown that added to the impression of fluidity in French music, opened with four Hahn songs that included the magical Si Mes Vers Avient des alles. This reviewer has always loved the classic but brisk Bidú Sayão recording, but in Weil and in a recording with virtuoso pianist Marc Andre-Hamlin Ms. Gauvin slowed things down to great effect, and continued with a lovely reading of A Chloris. Harmonic interest is foremost in these songs and was highlighted in Le Printemps by Mr. McMahon’s fluid pianism.

Three Duparc songs came next and in Chanson triste Ms. Gauvin opened up with more volume, reflecting much of the music of Duparc’s contemporary Faure. Chanson triste has a long fermata for the piano, as Phidylé also does with a postlude, and Ms. Gauvin’s pianissimo control that hands off the phrase to her pianist was complete. She uses very little chest resonance in her lower tones that don’t carry well, the voice sometimes disappearing towards the back of the hall.

Massenet songs, again in a block of four, closed the first half. The frothy Madrigal led into the famous and sad Elegy, the tempo for both songs was just right and the soprano’s voice beautifully colored and focused. Les Femmes de Magdala, concerning women watching the world from the side of a road, produced an elegant call and response between the singer and pianist, and another bantamweight ending. The finale, L’improvisateur, was rollicking.

Ms. Gauvin developed a happy rapport with her audience that included two members of her family, and remarked in song introductions about certain composers and certain anniversaries that affected her program selections. She frequently used an infectious laugh to punctuate stories and all was genuine and felicitous.

Ms. Gauvin performed a second half of 14 songs, all with impeccable intonation and disparate characterizations that continued the fluency of French song by using her operatic power deftly. Debussy’s Nuit d’etoiles was sung masterfully and the following Mandoline had a jolly character. The rhapsodic Beau Soir was a highlight of the evening, sensuously sung with palpable emotional impact.

Honegger’s set of six songs, Saluste de Bartas, was an upbeat antidote to the more conventional harmonies of the preceding music. Standing out were the interpretations of Le Château du Bartas with its repetitive rhythmic patterns in the piano part and bell-like tones, and the operatic Tout le long de las Baïse where Ms. Gauvin slightly widened her vibrato to accentuate this delicate and mesmerizing song, her voice liking to go high with sotto voce notes.

In Bizet the full palette of Ms. Gauvin’s vocal color was applied to four songs, each individual and passionately sung. Adieux de ‘hôtesse arabe was presented with an undulating line in the piano and a seamless and controlled legato from Ms. Gauvin. Bizet songs with a Spanish flavor (Guitare and Ouvre ton coeur) were alternatively sung coquettishly and with a dissonant Seville flair, in contrast to the lively dance hall taste of the vivacious and exciting La coccinelle. Ms. Gauvin seems to own La coccinelle with abundant facial expressions and connection with her audience and the singing was virtuosic.

Mr. McMahon was a consummate partner the entire evening, his arpeggios smooth and sforzandos dramatic and adding perfectly to Ms. Gauvin’s singing. He seldom had much original to say with his playing and eschewed inner voices, though a singer could not ask for a more dependable pianist.

Two encores in English were offered, beginning with Weill’s “Buddy on the Night Shift” (from the Propaganda Songs of 1944) and a Scottish folk song transcribed by an unnamed Canadian composer (Ms. Gauvin herself? Mr. Hamelin?). Both were idiomatically and stylishly performed and were a delight to the audience, eliciting additional bravas.

Mary Beard contributed to this review.