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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...
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 it’s 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 Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s 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 Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s 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 Rossini’s “William Tell” 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 Philharmonic’s 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...
Symphony
PEACE AND LOVE FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 04, 2018
Before the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 4 performance of Leonard Bernstein’s “Symphonic Dances from West Side Story,” Symphony CEO Alan Silow took a moment to acknowledge the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack and to observe that music offers a more peaceful and loving view of the world. Mr. ...
RECITAL REVIEW
Santa Rosa Junior College Chamber Concerts / Sunday, February 16, 2014
Gwendolyn Mok, piano

Pianist Gwendolyn Mok

MOK ONE SPEED AND ELEGANCE IN SRJC CHAMBER RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 16, 2014

After a decade-long absence, Gwendolyn Mok returned to the SRJC Chamber Series Feb. 16 in a gem of a balanced and elegant piano recital.

Before an audience of 140 in the College’s Newman Auditorium, the San Jose-based artist began with Beethoven’s early A Major Sonata, Op. 2, No. 2. She quickly caught the Haydnesque humor and charm of the opening Allegro, and in the florid slow movement the dotted notes in the right hand were sharply etched, and the piano tone was opulent. In the Rondo finale, Ms. Mok deftly took a little volume off the repeated treble notes, a romantic tradition gesture, and it was a polished performance.

Brahms’ first two Intermezzos from Op. 118 showed Ms. Mok to have consummate command of sweeping power and bass-heavy sonority of these autumnal works. The A Minor Intermezzo was played with heft and an improvisatory approach, and the A Major had tonal richness and tenderness. The B Minor Rhapsody from Op. 79 closed the first half and Ms. Mok gave a powerful reading to this turbulent piece, allowing just a little sun to enter the dark texture to lessen the agitation. The final left hand chord at the piano’s bottom effectively tied up the drama.

A novelty came after the intermission, Czerny’s E Flat Nocturne of Op. 647. The pianist in her informative verbal commentary said the piece was a model for the Nocturnes of Field, but actually Field’s innovative works were written long before the 1843 Czerny piece. Czerny was a composer of interest, an example being the excellent Variations from his Op. 7 Sonata on the opera “Iñes de Castro,” and in this afternoon’s performance Ms. Mok’s lovely legato touch was everywhere present. The control of pianissimo was also heard in Liszt’s third Sonetto Del Petrarca 123, and the chordal voicing and careful pedaling were masterly. Just before the ending wispy and quick arpeggios prepared the penultimate note in the treble that was held at protracted length, the audience seemingly holding its breath for the resolution. A special moment.

Liszt’s declamatory and agitated Sonetto Del Petrarca 104 began at a fast tempo and surprisingly was not quite mastered technically, though the bravura was strong enough and the artist’s conception solid and convincing. Small quibbles indeed.

For Ravel’s short Sonatine (1905) there were no doubts about the pianist’s rendition. All was joyously in place, from a big ritard in the first few bars of the Modéré to the whirling phrases of the concluding Animé. The outer movements were played quickly in places but Ms. Mok was able to broaden the musical fabric here and there to gain instrumental resonance. She really owns this striking piece.

At the end of the Sonatine’s Menuet the pianist’s right earring dropped onto her dress and keyboard, eliciting from Ms. Mok a funny comment and some audience titters. It reminded me of a similar incident long ago on the same stage and piano where Angela Hewitt lost an earring during a Liszt Sonata performance, and the Canadian pianist actually stopped playing to look for earring on the floor. It must have been a diamond.