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Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
RECITAL REVIEW

Pianist Rudolf Budginas

COMEDY WITHOUT RELIEF

by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 9, 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.