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Choral and Vocal
A SEASONAL MESSIAH WITH BALANCE AND HEFT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 10, 2017
The mid-December concert season seems for jaded reviewers to invariably include a Messiah performance, and perhaps a Messiah in a long string of similar and mundane performances. This was decidedly not the case when San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque mounted Handel’s eminent three-part 1742 Orato...
Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony concert featured two elegant and refined guests: music director candidate Andrew Grams and pianist Stewart Goodyear. Both displayed dazzling technique and consummate artistry, but Goodyear was the more consistent of the two. Some of Grams’ inconsistency may have st...
Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
Chamber
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the ...
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.