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Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s Sonoma Overt...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
Chamber
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, perfor...
Symphony
AMERICAN CLASSICS SPARKLE UNDER KAHANE’S BATON
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Jeffrey Kahane, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s former conductor, returned to the Weill Hall podium on Saturday night, and the results were expectedly wonderful. The concert of American classics was by turns playful (Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”), emotional (Barber’s violin concerto) and triumphant (...
Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
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.