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Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
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 they seem to be on almost ever...
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...
RECITAL REVIEW
Mendocino Music Festival / Thursday, July 17, 2014
Robert Schwartz, piano

Pianist Robert Schwartz

UNHURRIED COMMAND IN MENDO FESTIVAL RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 17, 2014

Pianist Robert Schwartz opened Mendocino Music Festival’s piano series July 17 with a set of works in a recital made for keyboard connoisseurs. His success was doubly gratifying for the artist as he had played on the same stage at last year’s Festival, but had to cancel most of the recital due to illness.

This year he began with Mozart’s challenging B-Flat Major Sonata, K. 570. It is a late work, full of contrapuntal interest, but his writer was unable to review the playing.

Closing the first half was a selection of six Mendelssohn Songs Without Words, taken from Ops. 19, 62 and 67. These short lyric works are in eight books, written throughout the composer’s lifetime, and need to sound as fresh as the day they were composed. Most have simple titles and Mr. Schwartz began with the A Major Song, “Confidence,” from Op. 19. Here as in the subsequent five he avoided extensive rubato and focused on structural details and the tonal beauty of each. The relaxed F-Sharp Major Song (Op. 67, No. 2, “Lost Illusions”) needed a quicker tempo but the following “May Breezes” and “Funeral March” received relaxed and subtle readings.

The concluding Allegro con Fuoco Song (“Departure,” Op. 62, No. 2) was boisterously played, appropriately loud and happy. The audience of 140 loved it.

Brahms’ Op. 5 Sonata closed the program, the granitic five-movement one in F Minor that is seldom played, especially at a summer festival. The artist's witty pre-performance remarks alluded to the need at this time in his life to climbing the Brahms mountain, and perhaps rekindling a long-ago interest since a student had brought the work to a recent lesson.

The sprawling first movement tempo was contemplative, the big bass chords rounded and plush. The closing fermata was extra long. Perhaps the best playing of the afternoon came in the Andante Espressivo where Mr. Schwartz caught the mercurial shifts in mood and pedaled deftly through phrase endings. There was a captivating pause before the coda, and not a sound came from the audience or the occasional outside Main Street motorcycle snarl.

Climaxes in the stormy Scherzo were built well and the finale (Allegro Moderato) had a strong march momentum and chaste playing of the lovely second theme. The pianist’s conception was packed with drama and there was no rush to get anywhere. Brahms under Mr. Schwartz’ fingers, feet and heart never hurries.

No encore was offered to the audience of 140.

Robert Schwartz doesn’t have powerhouse technical equipment, at least at this stage in his long career, but presents magnificent music in a serious and carefully crafted manner. Piano aficionados can ask for nothing more.