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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 ...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Elena Casanova / Sunday, November 02, 2008
Elena Casanova, Pianist

Elena Casanova

CASANOVA'S LISZT AND GINASTERA THRILL LARGE UKIAH AUDIENCE

by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 07, 2008

The proverbial “no person is a hero in their own backyard” was certainly false Nov. 2 when pianist Elena Casanova attracted the largest solo classical audience in memory to her Mendocino College recital, launching the sixth Concerts Grand season.

Before 210 partisans in Center Theater, Casanova tackled an eclectic program centered on Beethoven and Latin music, with a quick side trip for two dreamy Liszt works. The Third Consolation, performed before the Third Liebestraume, brought from Casanova some of the best playing of the afternoon – note perfect, deftly phrased and rich with color. An adroit arpeggio at bar 55 delicately disclosed Liszt’s tasteful dissonance, and the ritards were substantial enough to almost break the musical line. Almost, but not quite.

Beethoven’s “Paisiello” Variations began the program, inauspiciously both because of some tentative passages and the ephemeral nature of the writing. The theme and six short variations are quickly forgotten, far removed from the great “Eroica” and “Diabelli” sets. Not so of course for the ever-popular F Minor Sonata, Op. 57 (Appassionata) which received a careful but committed reading. Casanova was never in any hurry to get anywhere, shedding light on the dramatic qualities of the opening Allegro assai, and managing well the difficult articulation problems in the second part of the second subject. This was not an Appassionata of heroic proportions, but one well thought out and played with rhythmic certainty. The fortissimo 13 chords that begin the finale were curiously played softly, with a slight crescendo at the end, defying the score but producing an engaging effect. The movement didn’t end with the expected full-throttle roar, but the high “Cs” in the right hand sounded with the requisite power, and the large gathering was immediately on its feet to cheer.

Three short Lecuona pieces began the second half, preceded by comments from the pianist. Malaguena, the best known (the others were Andalucia and Gitanerias) had the expected rhythmic subtlety, and the pianism was secure and idiomatic. The same can be said of Casanova’s transversal of Ginastera’s Danzas Argentinas, Op. 2, composed in 1937. These are energetic works, the concluding Danza del Gaucho Matrero having the most pianistic fireworks of the afternoon, with handfuls of skips, long glissandos and off-beat accents. It was a tour de force, and Casanova was brought back to the stage several times, relenting with one encore. Like the other Latin works on the program, the “La Bella Cubana” of Afro-Cuban composer Jose White was receiving a rare hearing in Ukiah, and Casanova played the lovely habanera with just the right mixture of flexible pulse and sensuous languor.

Elena Casanova is one of Mendocino County’s best musicians, equally at home with Liszt’s “Dreams of Love” and the piquant excitement of Ginastera’s Argentine Pampa.

The concert was recorded and filmed, something seemingly fitting for a genuine local hero.

N. B. - the writer is the Producer of the Concerts Grand series.