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Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
Chamber
UNEXPECTED ARENSKY AND MENDELSSOHN BY THE NAVARRO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
The 100 people entering Schroeder Hall Feb. 17 for a Trio Navarro concert were handed a program that appeared to feature two popular piano trios, Mendelssohn and Arensky. But continuing the Navarro’s tradition of repertoire exploration, the pieces were not the usual first Mendelssohn and first Aren...
Recital
GLOVER'S ECLECTIC PROGRAMMING HIGHLIGHT'S CINNABAR RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
Daniel Glover is arguably the busiest virtuoso pianist in the San Francisco Bay area, but rarely is heard in North Bay concerts. So 90 local pianophiles were anxious to hear him Feb. 17 in Petaluma’s charming small Cinnabar Theater, and they were rewarded with an eclectic program of sometimes unfam...
Symphony
MENDELSSOHN'S SCOTTISH SAVES THE EVENING IN SRS WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Monday, February 11, 2019
The audience entering Weill Hall for Santa Rosa Symphony concerts Feb. 9-11 were presented with a program that on first glance appeared a curious patchwork – a great symphony mixed with a seldom heard concerto and two disparate overtures, and a guest conductor unknown locally. Monday night’s concer...
Recital
INTRIGUING BELL-HAYWOOD RECITAL BEFORE FULL HOUSE IN WEILL HALL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, February 08, 2019
A big portion of the capacity audience in Weill Hall February 8th came to hear violinist Joshua Bell’s virtuosity, and were treated as well to splendid playing from Sam Haywood, Mr. Bell’s regular pianist since 2010. The duo performed three engaging sonatas, highlighted by Mr. Bell’s sterling techn...
Symphony
TRIPLE PLAY UKIAH SYMPHONY CONCERT AND TCHAIKOVSKY SERENADE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Over the years the Ukiah Symphony’s concerts have been in the Classical Sonoma Calendar sections, but rarely has this Orchestra, now in its 39th season, had a full winter season concert review. The provocative Jan. 27 program in Mendocino College’s Center Theater seemed a good reason to reacquaint ...
Symphony
JACKSON THEATER WELCOMES A NEW RESIDENT ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Moving to a permanent new performance venue can be a perilous undertaking for an orchestra, with different acoustics, the loyal audience finding the new spot and infrastructure challenges of lighting and lobby and backstage operations. In their first concert Jan. 26 in Windsor’s Jackson Theater the...
Symphony
ECLECTIC PASSIONATE PROGRAMMING AT MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 26, 2019
The Marin Symphony’s second Masterworks concert of the 2018-19 season featured works by John Adams, Sibelius and Brahms, a masterful assembly. In a spoken introduction before the program’s first half, conductor Alasdair Neale primed the audience for the “terra incognita” of Adams’ The Chairman Dance...
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.