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Choral and Vocal
A SEASONAL MESSIAH WITH BALANCE AND HEFT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 10, 2017
The mid-December concert season seems for jaded reviewers to invariably include a Messiah performance, and perhaps a Messiah in a long string of similar and mundane performances. This was decidedly not the case when San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque mounted Handel’s eminent three-part 1742 Orato...
Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony concert featured two elegant and refined guests: music director candidate Andrew Grams and pianist Stewart Goodyear. Both displayed dazzling technique and consummate artistry, but Goodyear was the more consistent of the two. Some of Grams’ inconsistency may have st...
Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
Chamber
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the ...
RECITAL REVIEW
Dominican University / Sunday, November 10, 2013
Gustavo Romero, piano

Pianist Gustavo Romero Nov. 10

TOUR DE FORCE

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 10, 2013

Pianist Gustavo Romero has become a frequent Sonoma County visitor, playing in several Santa Rosa halls and homes in recent years. On Nov. 1, he made his Marin County debut at Dominican University’s Guest Artist Series in Angelico Hall.

The Dallas-based artist eschews stage flair and keeps remarks to a minimum, instead sitting mostly motionless at the piano, left foot always on the shift pedal. He exhibits a palpable concentration on the matters at hand.

Romero opened with a sensuous Godowsky transcription of Bach’s Andante from the solo violin sonata in C Major. Here the contrapuntal lines were clear and the slow tempo perfect for the work. The sound abruptly changed for Schubert’s three "Klavierstücke" (piano pieces), D. 956. The E-Flat Minor piece had an energetic reading, almost raw in places, and the concluding C Major was played with fetching syncopations and harmonies. It was forceful Schubert throughout. The five concluding chords of each piece were perfectly weighted, each with a slight diminuendo. Mr. Romero is not a colorist and his muscular Schubert might not be to everyone's taste, but there were many colorful moments in this work from Schubert's last year.

Chopin’s Barcarolle, Op. 60, followed. Here Mr. Romero was in a ruminative mood, the lyrical lines flowing in an expansive interpretation that featured arabesque-like melodic contours.

Finishing the first half was the explosive tour-de-force Fantasy (1989) by Krystof Maratka, who was 17 years old at the time. Written for the pianist, the Fantasy was propulsive and martial throughout, and Mr. Romero mastered the formidable difficulties with both bravura and stamina. The Fantasy seems to link to the early 20th century composer George Antheil, with its loud hammered chords, wide skips in both hands and driving rhythms. The audience loved it and gave Romero a clangorous ovation.

Six of Rachmaninoff’s sonorous pieces comprised the second half, beginning with the Op. 3 Elegy. Here the long phrases had graceful beauty but also emphasized the piano’s out-of-tune treble notes. The Op. 32 Preludes came next (Nos. 10, 12 and 5) and were lovingly played. The great B Minor, a favorite of the composer, had the right juxtaposition of repose and drama, and in the popular G Major the chaste theme sang out. This Prelude and the subsequent Etude-Tableaux (Op. 33, No. 2) gave the impression of cold Russian winter nights, with sleigh bells ringing in the latter piece. The effect was captivating.

Following a orchestral final Prelude in D-Flat Major, the pianist’s solo encore was a signature piece for him, Turkish composer Fazil Say’s "Black Earth." Here sections of strings were muted by Romero’s left hand, simultaneously with rapid arpeggios played with the right hand, and then richly hued and widely-spaced resonant chords. It was an encore that capped a terrific recital from a serious and arresting musician.