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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
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.