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Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now it seems to be on almost every...
Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the season’s final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church, as the performers...
Chamber
TRIO NAVARRO'S POPULAR FARE IN SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 08, 2018
Long time Classical Sonoma readers may recall many Trio Navarro concert reviews that lauded their virtuosity and interest in rarely played repertoire. The April 8 concert in Schroeder Hall before 85 chamber music fans featured sterling performances but had a mostly conservative menu of popular trio...
Recital
KENNER'S ALL POLISH RECITAL HAS PADEREWSKI RARITY
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, April 08, 2018
Kevin Kenner’s April 8 recital at Dominican University’s Angelico Hall had been advertised as all-Chopin, but he added a detour into another seminal Polish composer-pianist, Paderewski. Several of Mr. Kenner’s teachers were Poles, he speaks Polish, and he navigated at the piano both composers’ deman...
Symphony
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE VOICE AT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, April 08, 2018
In an April 8 Santa Rosa Symphony concert filled to the brim with instruments--electric violin, vibraphone, marimba, xylophone, glockenspiel, keyboard samplers, harps, piano and myriad drums, gongs and bells, to say nothing of winds, brass and strings--the instrument that came out on top was the hum...
Chamber
VOM FESTIVAL TRIO CHARMS WITH CHAMBER MIX, AND HUMMEL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, March 31, 2018
At the core of the group of Valley of the Moon Music Festival (VOM) musicians is an ensemble of trios and duos, and as a trio March 31 Festival founders cellist Tanya Tomkins and pianist Eric Zivian joined British violinist Monica Huggett for a chamber music concert in the Green Music Center’s Schro...
Choral and Vocal
GOOD FRIDAY REQUIEM FILLS INCARNATION
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 30, 2018
Maurice Duruflé’s short and intense Requiem has been heard in Santa Rosa’s Church of the Incarnation before, but the March 30 Good Friday performance was stripped down in the number of performers, combining Cantiamo Sonoma and the St. Cecilia Choir with musical underpinning from organist Robert Youn...
Symphony
HAMELIN'S HUSKY MOOD IN SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 25, 2018
Convention in piano recitals has the artist coming on stage and playing. Canadian pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin walked on Schroeder Hall’s stage March 25 and didn’t play for six minutes, chatting with the audience. A risk for some artists. Then most programs include a contemporary or rarely play...
Recital
VIRTUOSIC VARIATIONS IN MORGAN'S SCHROEDER ORGAN RECITAL
by Paul Blanchard
Sunday, March 18, 2018
Organist Robert Huw Morgan’s artistry spun through the web of early variation form in a Mar. 18 recital on Schroeder Hall’s wonderful Brombaugh organ. Mr. Morgan, Stanford University’s resident organist, performs a wide range of repertoire, but as he said in comments to the audience, he loves when h...
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.