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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
MasterCard Performance Series / Sunday, April 27, 2014
Hilary Hahn, violin; Cory Smythe, piano

Violinist Hilary Hahn

PRISTINE CONTROL, SUBDUED EMOTION

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 27, 2014

Hilary Hahn’s April 27 Weill Hall recital found the violinist entering the stage without her instrument, beginning ten minutes of comments about the program. She does these introductions well, and most of the audience enjoyed the discourse comparing Schubert's Fantasia for Violin with Schoenberg’s thorny Phantasy for Violin, and her recent commissioning project of 27 encore pieces.

And it was with this fresh set that she began with Welsh composer Richard Barrett’s three-minute “Shade,” a skittering tour de force of spiccato bow effects and eerie mystery. The sound had a scary edge, stopping and starting, and pianist Cory Smythe had the last word with a rich soft bottom B note.

Anton Garcia Abril’s Tres Suspiros followed, the three parts spotlighting Ms. Hahn’s superb bow control that allowed her to fashion the small thematic snippets in the first and third movements with aplomb. There is more than a little Messiaen here, and in the third movement the duo deftly played long phrase endings. The solo violin second movement had a lovely controlled pianissimo and a flavor of gypsy rhythms.

Schoenberg’s Op. 47 Phantasy was played very well, but I must admit I have never connected with it as I do with the Viennese master’s Violin Concerto. Ms. Hahn’s focus, intensity and stamina were admirable throughout this vexing work from 1949. The piano part is often furtive, and Ms. Hahn’s multiple tone skips were pristine.

Closing the first half was Mozart’s A Major Sonata, K. 305. The music fell warmly on the ear after the pesky Schoenberg. The playing struck an argumentative note in the first movement, and in the concluding variations the pianist’s subdued legato playing contrasted with the soloist’s marvelous tone, smoothly changing from dry to florid. That said, it’s one of Mozart’s least interesting sonatas, albeit well laid out for both piano and violin.

Two works comprised the second half, preceded again by Ms. Hahn’s remarks to the audience of 1,200: Telemann’s E Minor Fantasie for solo violin (TWV 40:19) and Schubert’s C Major Fantasia, D. 934. The Fantasie was played without score and was faultless in all registers. These were gallant dances with contrapuntal twists galore, a Baroque delight that made one want a Bach Partita from Ms. Hahn’s magical instrument.

In the protracted Schubert piece, Mr. Symthe was an attentive but not virtuoso pianist, playing sporadic muddy scale passages and beginning far too loudly. Here the music for both instruments needs to carefully grow from silence. A long held note in the violin led effortlessly to the rondo theme, emphasizing the long arch of rarified lyricism. In the opening slow section, Ms. Hahn used portamento rarely, but in the many repeats played them with variety: here a diminuendo, there a less forceful character or a tad less vibrato. She has a consummate and delicate pizzicato technique with at times intriguing inflections.

The 26-minute performance had a triumphant and majestic finale, each musician trading motives in a celebratory way leading to an exciting finish.

Responding to a standing ovation, the violinist played Max Richter’s “Mercy,” a threnody work that has sounds like Pärt or new-age music. But here it was mesmerizing with long decrescendos and, as always, Ms. Hahn’s subtle control of pianissimo and bow position. Slow piano chords were in the background, leaving the yearning and delicate work to a violinist at the top of her game. It was an encore that had a certain emotional impact that was lacking in the recital proper.

Violinist Mischa Hubermann contributed to this review