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Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
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.