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Symphony
ZUILL PLAYS ZWILICH WITH SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The Santa Rosa Symphony took a cautious step toward the return of live music in their March 28 virtual concert by sharing the stage with an actual live soloist rather than an apparition. Star cellist Zuill Bailey was still masked, and his back was toward the equally masked and plexiglassed orchestra...
Chamber
ECLECTIC CELLO PIANO VIRTUAL RECITAL FROM TOMKINS ZIVIAN DUO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The venerable 41-year Redwood Arts Council Series in Occidental has joined the virtual recital world with low budget but artistically satisfying programs, mostly using videos filmed in the performer’s residences. March 28 saw the Tanya Tomkins-Eric Zivian duo present an eclectic program from their ...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HITS THE SWEET SPOT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Small orchestras can inhabit a sweet spot between chamber ensembles and full orchestras, but how well they hit that spot depends on the composer's orchestration and the players' ability to project. That dependence was on full display in the Santa Rosa Symphony's Feb. 28 concert, which featured three...
Chamber
NOVEL OBOE-HARPSICHORD RECITAL FROM AIKEN DUO IN UKIAH
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Oboe and harpsichord recitals are a rare North Bay event, even in a pandemic environment where a formal hall setting isn’t available. So it was a delight Feb. 21 to experience on the Ukiah Symphony’s website a recital by Symphony oboist Beth Aiken and harpsichordist husband Tom. The Aiken home vis...
Symphony
A HEALTHY MIX OF TRANSCRIPTIONS AND ORIGINALS FROM THE SR SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Transcriptions and ascending arpeggios were the order of the day on Jan. 24, as the Santa Rosa Symphony performed uplifting works by Bach/Webern, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Marianna Martínes and Mozart. The concert video was made in Weill Hall on Jan. 9. The first transcription was Webern’s 1935 renderi...
Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
RECITAL REVIEW

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.