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Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s Sonoma Overt...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
Chamber
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, perfor...
Symphony
AMERICAN CLASSICS SPARKLE UNDER KAHANE’S BATON
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Jeffrey Kahane, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s former conductor, returned to the Weill Hall podium on Saturday night, and the results were expectedly wonderful. The concert of American classics was by turns playful (Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”), emotional (Barber’s violin concerto) and triumphant (...
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...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
MasterCard Performance Series / Saturday, October 12, 2013
Garrick Ohlsson, piano

Pianist Garrick Ohlsson

VENTURING INTO THE UNKNOWN

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 12, 2013

Along with pianist Garrick Ohlsson's formidable technique and artistry, curiosity has been a hallmark of his long career. Though playing the conventional repertoire superbly, he constantly ventures into unknown corners of piano music.

The centerpiece of his Oct. 12 recital at Weill Hall in Rohnert Park was the seldom-heard Liszt work Ad Nos, Ad Salutarem Unam, written for organ in 1852 and transcribed for piano in 1897 by Busoni. In 23 minutes, Liszt (or should it be Busoni?) builds a massive structure that tested the sonic extremes of the hall's new piano. Mr. Ohlsson began the work's questioning and solemn first theme with care and perfect chordal weighting, and the clarity of lines in an occasionally clangorous sonic mix was exemplary. The playing was mostly orchestral for nearly 13 minutes, then the sun came out in a lovely chorale that points to Liszt's daring late-period harmonies. It's easy in this work to make too many tempo modifications, but Mr. Ohlsson adopted a rock-solid pace, even when building rock-splitting sonorities.

The fugue began judiciously and was carried in short passages until a thunderous conclusion. Also admirable were the lengthy right-hand scale runs and scintillating parallel octaves. The Ad Nos demands stamina as well as technical brilliance, and Mr. Ohlsson had ample amounts of both. A standing ovation followed the final chord, with some in the audience seeming dazed by what they had heard.

Was the rest of the program thrown into the shade by this prodigious performance? Not really, although the six Debussy studies that began the second half sounded a little prosaic. The selections from Book I exploit wildly contrasting moods. Mr. Ohlsson lavished here his considerable beauty of timbre and control of technical details, such as colorful glissandi, will-of-the-wisp passages and rapid chords in pesky close-hand positions. He has very large hands but manages to solve with apparent ease Debussy's most intricate figurations. The third selection in double fourths, Pour les Quartes, had a perfect impressionistic legato and was almost lapidary in execution.

The first half began with Brahms' B Minor and G Minor Op. 79 Rhapsodies, and the recital finished with Chopin's F Minor Fantasy, Op. 49. Both Brahms were big-boned readings, wonderfully bass-heavy with deft left-hand crossover passages capturing the turbulent character of the first and the fatalistic and extroverted character of the second. It was echt Brahms for the connoisseur.

I have heard Mr. Ohlsson's rendition of the Chopin Fantasy several times, but this performance was the most inspired and interesting. He began pensively with deft touches, including three extended fermatas and subtly rolled left-hand chords. The lyricism appeared in the first of three main theme repetitions where the contrary octave playing was resounding and accurate. The chaste chorale section was delicately played, but the final version of the march was treated to an unexpected accelerando leading to a bravura and passionate ending.

Two encores satisfied the happy crowd of 900, beginning with the aristocratic C-Sharp Minor Chopin Waltz from Op. 64. Mr. Ohlsson had fun with this work, making wily rhythmic alterations at each returning theme and stressing the languorous nature of the piece until the end, when speed and delicacy prevailed. It's hard to play very fast and also softly, but it's outwardly child's play for Mr. Ohlsson. A volcanic performance of Rachmaninoff's ever-popular C-Sharp Minor Prelude closed the recital, with playing as individual and convincing as all that had come before.