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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
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.