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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...
Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the season’s final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church, as the performers...
RECITAL REVIEW
Oakmont Concert Series / Thursday, October 18, 2012
Gustavo Romero,piano

Gustavo Romero On Berger's Stage Oct. 18

FORMIDABLE PIANISM FROM GUSTAVO ROMERO

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 18, 2012

Austin-based pianist Gustavo Romero has a second artistic home in Sonoma County, having played three times on the Oakmont Concert Series and in a number of private concerts. He returned to Oakmont’s Berger Auditorium Oct. 18 to play a formidable recital of Bach, Beethoven, Debussy and Rachmaninoff.

In one of the longest programs in recent memory, Mr. Romero played three Beethoven sonatas, finishing the first half with the mighty “Appassionata.” Throughout the afternoon, he was never in a hurry to get anywhere, even in the finale of the Appassionata, where performers tend to pile up too many notes in too short a space, thus blurring the musical line. Mr. Romero is neither a pianist of the most subtle phrasing nor a great colorist. What you hear is what you get--unfussy and well-thought out interpretations, left foot always on the shift pedal, no extraneous facial expressions or mannerisms, serious communion with the composer. It’s an approach sharply different from that of Lang Lang nearly three weeks previously in Weill Hall. Mr. Romero is all business.

He began with a lyrical performance of the Andante from Bach’s second violin sonata, in the Godowsky transcription. It was a balanced reading with deft inner lines and terraced dynamics.

In the first of the Beethoven sonatas, Op. 78, Mr. Romero continued his leisurely tempos, with differentiated repeats. It was graceful playing, as was the following, the popular “Hunt” sonata. This work requires the gentle touch Mr. Romero brought to it, the big sforzandos all the more surprising. He used a light pedal in the Scherzo, and though his scales were clear, they were hardly crystalline.

The Appassionata, played often in Santa Rosa in the past five years, was a relaxed but thankfully a nonstructural interpretation. This sonata is emotional throughout, including the short set of variations making up the middle movement, which uses one of Beethoven’s most attractive melodies. Mr. Romero varies his trills from moderate to brilliant all through the piece, and twice he let the sound linger with long movement-ending fermatas. The finale, marked Presto, was hardly that but showed clear articulation, and the dynamic sweep was always under control. A careful but effective interpretation.

Tonal color was foremost in the three Debussy works that opened the second half. “Pagodes” was played atmospherically, with the pianist using half-pedal effects, creating a wash of soft and bell-like sounds. “La Soirée dans Grenade” has a habanera rhythm that Mr. Romero emphasized, almost to the detriment of the guitar effects. The last piece, “Jardins sous la pluie,” was played with a broad dynamic range, and the multiple dynamic levels were carefully rendered. Here the artist’s tempo was faster and the result was a highlight of the recital.

Rachmaninoff preludes, preceded by the early Op. 3 “Elegie,” closed the recital. The lush Chopineque melodies of the Elegie were languorously and elegantly played, leading to five preludes, each of a sharply different character. The B Minor of Op. 32, reported by Moiseiwitsch to be the composer’s favorite, was played with rich colors and a masterful control of pianissimo. A series of sleigh-bell sounds came with the Op. 32 prelude in G-Sharp Minor, the vocal nature of the writing beautifully underscored by the pianist. Two preludes in G followed. The Op. 23 version had the right “military” character with bright repeated right-hand chords, and the Op. 32 waxed nostalgic. In the latter, Mr. Romero played the final three chords chastely, with just the right silence between them.

The concluding prelude was the glorious one in D Flat Major, played here more slowly than usual. It had a monumental and powerful sound, and the chordal voicing was always even.

Repeating an encore of a past Oakmont recital, Mr. Romero played Turkish composer Fazil Say’s “Black Earth,” a 1997 work that makes use of held forte pianistic chords combined with hand-muted (on the strings) notes and quick right-hand figurations. It was a long encore but beguiling and well received.