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Recital
SLAM BANG SONORITY IN HAOCHEN ZHANG'S SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 19, 2017
Piano Competition winners are in ample supply, and it’s often a hit and miss proposition as to their sterling interpretative qualities. However, the quadrennial Van Cliburn Competition in Ft. Worth has continually produced top-level artists, and the 2009 winner Haochen Zhang proved a formidable per...
Symphony
FOREIGN AFFAIRS CHARACTERS OF THE BAROQUE
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, known as Akamus, played a Weill Hall concert March 12 in a program called "Foreign Affairs -Characters of the Baroque.” The ensemble, that began in 1984, has 15 musicians led by concert master Bernhard Forck. Attired in elegant black with red accents, ranging from tie...
Recital
MUSCULAR PIANISM DOMINATES MILL VALLEY CHAMBER SOCIETY RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Piano recitals since the beginning of the genre open with finger pieces - Scarlatti or Soler Sonatas, Bach, a Mendelssohn Prelude and Fugue or perhaps Mozart or Haydn. Sarah Daneshpour’s March 12 opening work at the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society series abruptly avoided the norm with the 10-minut...
Recital
NOVEL HAYDN AND SCHUMANN IN YARDEN'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, March 09, 2017
Israeli pianist Einav Yarden has been a frequent Sonoma County visitor, playing private recitals for Spring Lake Village and Concerts Grand, and twice performing for Music at Oakmont. The Berlin-based artist returned to Oakmont’s Berger Auditorium March 9 with a program that was neither for connois...
Chamber
CONSUMMATE ENSEMBLE FROM THE MIRÓ IN WEILL
by Sonia Tubridy and Nicki Bell
Sunday, March 05, 2017
A March 5 Weill hall audience of 350 leaned in to share an intimate musical space and to hear the Miró String Quartet’s sterling concert. Starting with Haydn's Op. 20, No. 4, the four musicians seemed to want listeners to be enveloped in their music. The Miró plays with the feat of being four dist...
Recital
BRILLIANT VIOLIN AND PIANO ARTISTRY CHARMS SCHROEDER HALL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 26, 2017
A tiny Schroeder Hall audience heard a flawless recital Feb. 26 by Yu-Chien Tseng, arguably the best recent local violin recital since Gil Shaham’s transversal of the complete Bach Suites in Weill and Frank Almond’s Oakmont recital in 2015. Muscular playing was the afternoon’s norm, and with pianis...
Chamber
MUSIC AND ART MELD IN ZUCKERMAN TRIO CONCERT
by Nicki Bell
Friday, February 24, 2017
A Feb. 24 Weill Hall concert by the Pinchas Zuckerman Trio juxtaposed formidable music making with palpable associations about visual art. Brahms’ C Minor "Sonatensatz” (Scherzo) is a short youthful work for violin and piano, and was an opening call to action. Lively and vigorous playing alternated...
Chamber
THREE BEETHOVEN TRIOS BEGUILE AUDIENCE IN FEB. 19 WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Chamber music concerts featuring one composer can be tricky, but the Han/Setzer/Finckel trio made a Feb. 19 Weill Hall audience of 500 hear and to a degree see the boundless creativity of Beethoven. The G Major Trio, Op. 1, No. 2, opened the afternoon’s Beethoven odyssey and one wonders why it is t...
Chamber
AUTHORITATIVE BARTOK HIGHLIGHTS TETZLAFF VIOLIN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 18, 2017
Christian Tetzlaff’s Feb. 18 violin recital rolled along with lively and fresh readings of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert when the specter of Bartok’s granitic Second Sonata intervened. The sonic shock to the audience of 250 in Weill was palpable. Composed in 1923 the 20-minute two-movement work i...
Symphony
WHAT SOUND DO STAR-CROSSED LOVERS MAKE?
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 12, 2017
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, so the Santa Rosa Symphony feted the occasion by telling and retelling the story of Romeo and Juliet, a tale ever the more poignant during our era of stark divisions. The first telling was from Berlioz; the second from Prokofiev. In between was Brahms’ monu...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
San Francisco Symphony / Thursday, February 12, 2015
Herbert Bloomstedt, conductor. Peter Serkin, piano

San Francisco Symphony and Peter Serkin (piano) Feb. 12 (N. Bell Photo)

BOLD OPERATIC AND SYMPHONIC CONTRASTS IN SF SYMPHONY CONCERT

by Nicki Bell
Thursday, February 12, 2015

Pianist Peter Serkin and San Francisco Symphony Laureate conductor Herbert Blomstedt pulled musical extremes together on Feb. 12 in Weill Hall Symphony concert where artistic experience was a defining factor. From the warmth and humor of Mozart’s F Major Piano Concerto, K. 459, to the turmoil, drama and final ecstasy of the Sibelius Second Symphony, the music flowed with richness and resonance.

Mozart 19th Concerto from 1784 is Mozart at his height of popularity.  Its beginning is permeated with a “Magic Flute” flavor, Pamino and Tamino's ancestors, with its warmth, humor, flirtatious mischief.  Mr. Serkin played with gorgeous, luscious tone, his phrases beautifully voiced and shaped.  With the
acoustics of the hall, the clarity of the instruments is exciting, a lush string sound, and the winds shone in their changing of the mood colors.  The three movements are an opera unfolding in sound.  One interesting aspect of the pianist’s playing was his use of ersatz vibrato on an ending note and then to lift his right arm into the air, still moving with a waving tremolo.  This seems to be derived Mr. Serkin’s teacher father, Rudolf, but was also a trait from the Schnabel family of musicians.

Mr. Blomstedt was hidden behind the piano lid during the Mozart, but with the Sibelius it was a shock to see him conducting without either score or baton.  He is 88 and seemed calmly commanding, thoroughly in his element.   From the chamber orchestra size in the Concerto, the San Francisco Symphony doubled in size for the Sibelius Second Symphony in D Major, Op. 43, with a full complement of brass, percussion, winds and extra strings.

This behemoth work was built primarily out of what has been called "handfuls of thematic nuclei" that evolve into complete structures. The melodic "do-re-mi" of the beginning is used throughout and by the end has expanded and morphed as an acorn into an oak tree. Each of the four movements are filled with intense contrasts.  This is a large scale work that premiered in Helsinki in 1902 with the composer conducting.  

There is an apocalyptic character to the piece and the nearly full audience in Weill was was bathed in magnificent and monumental sound.  From oboe laments to full-throttle strings, fabulous double bass pluckings to woodwind choirs, pastorale interludes giving way to the brass, the dramatic themes and emotional turmoil roll throughout the four movements to a grand, heroic fortissimo conclusion,

People from Finland have said that “there is something about his music (Jean Sibelius), at least for us Finns, that leads us to ecstasy, almost like a shaman with his magic drum.” Mr. Blomstedt and the virtuoso San Francisco Symphony were the audience’s shaman in this prodigious concert.