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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
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.