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Symphony
CONDUCTOR PLAYOFFS BEGIN IN SANTA ROSA
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 08, 2017
The Santa Rosa Symphony is calling 2017-18 “a choice season” because the next few months offer the audience and the symphony’s board of directors a chance to choose a new conductor from a pool of five candidates. Each candidate will lead a three-concert weekend set this fall and winter, with a final...
Symphony
DVORAK AND TCHAIKOVSKY ORCHESTRAL COLOR AT SO CO PHIL SEASON OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 30, 2017
A concert with curious repertoire and splashy orchestral color launched the 19th season of the Sonoma County Philharmonic Sept. 30 in Santa Rosa High School’s Auditorium. Why curious? Conductor Norman Gamboa paired the ever-popular Dvorak and his rarely heard 1891 trilogy In Nature’s Realm, with t...
Recital
ELEGANT PIANISM IN WATER MUSIC CHARMS HOUSE RECITAL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 03, 2017
A standard component of house concerts often involve listeners hearing the music but also smelling the lasagna and seeing the champagne in the adjacent kitchen. But it was not the case Sept. 3 at Sandra Shen’s Concerts Grand House Recital performance, as her riveting piano playing enthralled the sm...
Chamber
YOUNG MUSICIANS SHINE AT PIANO SONOMA CONCERT
by Lee Ormasa
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
The third in a series of four concerts by Piano Sonoma artists in residence, part of the Vino and Vibrato Series, was held August 1 in Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center. Entitled “The Masters,” the program included works by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. Piano Sonoma is a summer artist-in...
Chamber
THRILLING PROGRAM CLOSES VOM CHAMBER FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, July 30, 2017
The finale of the two-week Valley of the Moon Music Festival closed July 30 with “The Age of Bravura” concert at the Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. The musical selections held to this year’s Festival theme “Schumann’s World - His Music and the Music He Loved.“ This summer Festival features chamber mus...
Chamber
PERIOD INSTRUMENTAL SOUND AT PENULTIMATE VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 30, 2017
In the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival’s penultimate concert July 30 the perennial issue of period and modern instruments was apparent. But only in the concluding Mendelssohn Trio, as the performances in the two first half works easily avoided instrumental comparisons. Clara Schumann’s t...
Chamber
ECLECTIC REPERTOIRE IN FETCHING VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 22, 2017
One of the purposes of summer music festivals is to present unfamiliar music in an attractive and often small audience setting. The Valley of the Moon Music Festival delightfully met these requirements July 22 and 23 with two concerts in the small hall at Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. Classical Sono...
Recital
ADAMS' PHRYGIAN GATES HIGHLIGHTS MORKOSKI FESTIVAL PERFORMANCE
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Attendees at the Molly Morkoski Mendocino Music Festival recital July 22 were in for a treat, both pianistically and if they happened to buy a tasty cookie during intermission. The program included Beethoven’s Op. 27 Moonlight Sonata, Adams’ Phrygian Gates, a surprise add-on of Grieg’s Holberg Suit...
Symphony
SOARING VERDI REQUIEM CLOSES 31ST MENDOCINO FESTIVAL
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
We speak frequently about how there is nothing like the experience of a live performance. Seldom was this truer than at the July 22 closing performance of the two-week Mendocino Music Festival. The Festival Orchestra, conducted by of Allan Pollack, joined with the Festival Chorus in a moving renderi...
Recital
ORGAN REGISTRATION MASTERY HEARD IN WALHAIN'S RECITAL
by Robert Young
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
A group of 65 lucky attendees July 18 had the pleasure of hearing Etienne Walhain’s recital at the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa. Mr. Walhain is organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Tournai, Belgium, and played to a varied program Bach, Franck, and Reger. He used the tonal resource...
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