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Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
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.