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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
Santa Rosa Junior College Chamber Concerts / Friday, November 09, 2012
Rudolf Budginas, piano

Pianist Rudolf Budginas

COMEDY WITHOUT RELIEF

by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2012

Getting noticed in the classical piano world is a daunting task. With an avalanche of young artists, each seeming to play the Ligeti Etudes or the Liszt Sonata while texting a friend, novelty is an important part of getting audiences and having concertgoers pay attention to you.

Santa Rosa Junior College faculty pianist Rudolf Budginas has developed a unique parody of the formal piano recital, and he presented it Nov. 9 in the College’s Newman Auditorium before a packed house of titillated and bemused listeners. His production and antics were new to me, but the tipoff was that the program sheet didn’t list specific musical works. Bach was listed as a “Prelude” and Chopin as “Revolutionary.” Clearly Mr. Budginas was going to do his will with their music. He eventually did so with aplomb and a stage presence that puts Lang Lang, Oscar Levant, Victor Borge and George Antheil to shame.

Mr. Budginas’ entertainment is balanced and deceptively delivered in an offhand manner, interspersed with bits of pieces he has chosen for humorous effects to illustrate his verbal commentary. He rarely plays a piece all the way through, preferring to take a work like Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and play it at the keyboard with a bongo drum set and cymbals in a knockoff of Turkish composer Fazil Say’s “Black Earth.” The comments he made before every piece ranged from the educational to the childish and the musically slanderous. For some listeners, the effect quickly wore thin.

Adding to Mr. Budginas’ pianistic efforts was a two-minute harmonica solo of his own variations on the theme from Haydn’s “Surprise” Symphony, with copious physical gyrations. He also made repeated fatuous comments about his native country (Lithuania) and opined that Beethoven had trouble writing themes. People laughed and wanted more. Mr. Budginas loves an audience, and this night they definitely loved him.

All this would be peripheral if Mr. Budginas could seriously interpret important music. Alas, he cannot and he isn’t a pianist who rises above the mundane. He began the recital with Chopin’s C Minor Etude from Op. 10 (Revolutionary), a surprising work to start with, and overpedaled the whole piece, sacrificing clarity. In Beethoven’s Op. 31 D Minor Sonata (Tempest), he played only the last movement, all too loud, with stodgy phrasing and a lack of rhythmic subtlety and grace. He eschewed tonal color and never parked his left foot on the shift pedal to generate instrumental shadings and subtlety.

Next Mr. Budginas coyly chose the initial C Major Prelude from Bach’s “Well-Tempered Clavier.” He started with a rock-solid tempo and tonal richness that quickly collapsed when he skipped into some jazz variations. There was no nod to a ritard at the piece’s most memorable point. Instead, he just plowed ahead. An “Ave Maria” by Caccini followed, played in a saccharine manner with gauche New Age flourishes and harmonies.

The first half ended when Mr. Budginas went into battle with Liszt’s Sixth Hungarian Rhapsody in D Flat. He skipped the entire introduction and began this wonderful work towards the recapitulation, with the famous and demanding single-note and octave repetitions. He could not technically maintain the tempo, finger staccato and control this music needs, so he slowed everything down, again omitting sections of the music in order to hammer a bombastic conclusion in a tasteless display. The audience, happily sprinkled with students and College staff, gave him a standing ovation.

For presumably many reasons a number of people left at intermission, including this reviewer, and what Mr. Budginas did in the second part with Tchaikovsky (announced on the program as “Black Swan”) and the music of Brubeck, Glass, Gershwin and Schubert must be conjectural. That the pianist is a delightful actor in his craft of comic audience arousal and provocative musical snippets is indisputable. But for music-making of passionate elegance, majesty and refinement, this concert had little to offer.