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Chamber
BEETHOVEN FEATURED IN SF TRIO'S OCCIDENTAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 19, 2020
Conventional repertoire in uncommonly good performances highlighted the San Francisco Piano Trio’s Jan. 19 concert in the Occidental Center for the Arts. Haydn’s No. 44 Trio (Hob. XV:28) came from late in his long career, when he was in and out of London, and received a sparkling reading that featu...
SIMONE PORTER ASPIRES TO STARDOM WITH SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 12, 2020
The Sibelius violin concerto is one of several mountains that violin soloists need to ascend before they can lay claim to stardom. Hundreds make the attempt every year, but only a few reach the top. Simone Porter, who played the concerto with the Santa Rosa Symphony on Sunday afternoon, got close bu...
Choral and Vocal
ORPHEUS OF AMSTERDAM'S MUSIC IN SCHROEDER ORGAN CHORAL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, January 10, 2020
“All over the map.” Sonoma Bach, directed by Bob Worth, has taken its audiences this season on journeys through many centuries and many lands. The programming is fresh and intriguing and the performers varied and creators of beauty and interest. The January 10 program was centered on organ works by...
Choral and Vocal
OLD NORTH GERMAN CAROLS IN SONOMA BACH'S SCHROEDER CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, December 15, 2019
“Cast off all sorrows…also dance in heavenly fashion.” A volume called Piae Cantiones was printed in 1582 in North Germany, lively songs going back to the 14th century, and this treasure trove provided material for numerous composers to arrange Christmas carols over following generations, from simp...
Symphony
EVERLASTING LIGHT AT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Monday, December 09, 2019
The Mozart Requiem includes four intermittent vocal soloists, but the real star is the choir, which is featured in almost every movement. That stardom shone bright at the Santa Rosa Symphony’s memorable Requiem performance on Monday night. The soloists were good, but the choir was superb. Located wi...
Symphony
UNFINISHED AND FINNISH
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 08, 2019
Having a new resident conductor on the podium for the Ukiah Symphony was an attractive invitation for a long-delayed visit to Mendocino College’s Center Theater Dec. 8. The insouciant Les Pfutzenreuter recently retired after decades of conducting the ensemble, replaced by Phillip Lenberg who also j...
Choral and Vocal
PRAERTORIUS IN RENAISSANCE GLORY FROM SONOMA BACH
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, November 16, 2019
Sonoma Bach Choir, in collaboration with Barefoot All-Stars Viol Consort and The Whole Noyse Brass Ensemble, presented “Sing Glorious Praetorius!” November 16 to an almost full Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center. The Soloists were soprano Dianna Morgan, Christopher Fritzsche, (countertenor), m...
Symphony
ECLECTIC INSTRUMENTAL EXCITEMENT IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 16, 2019
Beginning with a scintillating reading of Rossini’s Overture to the Opera “Semiramide,” the Sonoma County Philharmonic performed a splendid program Nov. 16 in the Jackson Theater, and featured two additional works, one showcasing the winner of the San Francisco Conservatory’s Young Artist Award. It...
Chamber
SPIRITUAL LATE BEETHOVEN QUARTET HIGHLIGHTS MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 10, 2019
Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Op. 131, called “unparalleled in its inexhaustibility” by critic Thomas May, is a daunting challenge. Orchestral in concept, filled with wit and charm, melancholy and fury, it almost overwhelms listeners. Playing the frenetic Scherzo, a viol...
Symphony
MUSICAL EXTRAVAGANCE IN UNIQUE SRS CONCERT IN WEILL HALL
by Terry McNeill
Monday, November 04, 2019
It was a concert full of surprises Nov. 4 as the Santa Rosa Symphony responded to the area’s wild fires and evacuations with challenging, songful and somewhat unique music in Weill Hall. The last of a three-concert series titled "Master of the Modern Banjo" is reviewed here. The evening began with...
RECITAL REVIEW
MasterCard Performance Series / Saturday, September 21, 2013
Itzhak Perlman, violin. Rohan De Silva, piano

Violinist Itzhak Perlman

ITZHAK PERLMAN: HIGH VOLTAGE VIRTUOSO

by Steve Osborn
Saturday, September 21, 2013

Weill Hall at the Green Music Center in Rohnert Park is actually two halls: one inside the graceful building and one outside on the amphitheater-shaped lawn. The two connect at the back of the hall, where giant panels can be slid open to bring the outdoors in and the indoors out.

Perhaps the best view of this dual identity is to be had from the "choral circle," two or more rows of seats that encircle the sides and front of the hall. The seats on the sides face forward, so you can pan back and forth between the lawn and the stage, as if watching a tennis match.

This dual identity is visually striking, but it does lead to an important sonic challenge: how to transmit the sound outside while preserving the acoustics within. The answer at this point seems to be amplification in both spaces, as was made abundantly clear in the opening notes of Itzhak Perlman's Sept. 21 recital at Weill. For the first few bars of the opening piece, Beethoven's Violin Sonata No. 1, the sound of the violin within the hall rang out impossibly loud. The culprit was a discrete black microphone positioned a few feet in front of Perlman, who was seated in an electric wheelchair. A few seconds later, a hidden technician turned down the volume, and the violin assumed a more normal acoustic relationship with the piano, which was also miked.

For the purists in the audience, the illusion of unadulterated sound was shattered, but some acoustic compromises seem inevitable, given the nature of the space. In any event, Perlman's playing soon put all those issues to rest. He would be just as beguiling on an electric violin as on a Stradivarius.

All his fundamental qualities were on display in the Beethoven: a muscular sound marked by extreme fluidity, exquisite bowing, nearly perfect intonation, well-controlled dynamics and maximum expression. His many runs up and down the fingerboard were flawless, played as gently as the breeze wafting in from the lawn.

In the slow second movement of the Beethoven, a classic theme and variations, Perlman let the tune ring out and then made each variation utterly distinctive, from strident to sweet to majestic. His able accompanist, Rohan De Silva, led off the third movement vivaciously, striking the unexpected sforzandi to dramatic effect. Perlman echoed those surprises, then added some of his own, imbuing Beethoven's sonata with great narrative urgency.

That same sense of a master storyteller emerged in the next work, Grieg's Violin Sonata No. 3, his last and most popular sonata. This uber-Romantic work is just a few notes shy of being a full-blown concerto, particularly in the last movement, with its familiar call-and-response format. The opening movement has a strong sense of foreboding, with a repeated seven-note phrase punctuating the texture like an insistent Morse code. Perlman's bowing for this phrase was incredibly supple, shifting seamlessly from long notes to staccato bursts.

The dreamlike second movement, with its slow, heartbreaking melody, set the stage for the rollicking finale, replete with folk dances and virtuosic displays. Perlman really inhabited the sonata, displaying supreme confidence throughout its performance.

With those two full-fledged sonatas under his belt, Perlman opened the second half of the show with Kreisler's arrangement of Baroque composer Tartini's "Devil's Trill" sonata. The arrangement probably makes historically informed performers cringe, but it's a lot of fun, with incessant double-stops, portamento galore, and the obsessive finger-twisting trills of the title. By the climax, the melody is buried beneath such a thick layer of trills that the violin sounds like an entire orchestra.

Perlman followed the Tartini-Kreisler with two more Kreisler arrangements of obscure Baroque and Classical composers, first from Giovanni Martini and then from Francois Francoeur, whom he described as a "legend in his own home." Both were sonic baubles based on simple melodies.

Next came Tchaikovsky's "Chanson sans parole," which Perlman joked had been written for a friend of the composer's stuck in prison. This was somewhat meatier musically, with a charming lyric theme and some effective harmonics at the end. A Caprice by Henryk Wieniawski followed, again arranged by Kreisler, this time with bowing so rapid that Perlman's wrist fluttered like a bird's wing.

The program proper concluded with Brahms' "Hungarian Dance No. 1," as arranged by Joachim. Here Perlman set a furious pace with lots of rubato and some upper-position work that got a little dodgy toward the end. The encore, after thunderous applause, was Antonio Bazzini's "Dance of the Goblins," a showpiece to end all showpieces. The technical demands are almost beyond belief, but Perlman appeared unfazed as his fingers flew across the violin, each one apparently in several places at once. It would have been electrifying even without the microphone.

[Reprinted by permission of San Francisco Classical Voice.]