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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 itís 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 Handelís seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if itís 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 Purcellís Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the schoolís 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 Rossiniís ďWilliam TellĒ 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 Philharmonicís 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
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.]