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Opera
SPARKLING CIMAROSA OPERA HIGHLIGHTS MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kathryn Stewart
Friday, July 13, 2018
The Classical music era was a time of extraordinary innovation. Dominated by composers from the German-speaking countries, the period witnessed the handiwork of masterpieces by two classical giants, Haydn and Mozart. Both composers put forth a tremendous catalog of masterful works and perhaps to our...
Symphony
!PURA VIDA! A SONIC TRIUMPH FOR SO CO PHIL IN THRILLING COSTA RICA TOUR CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Long anticipated events, such as a great sporting game, gourmet feast, holiday trip or a concert, occasionally fall way short of expectations. The results don’t measure to expectations. With the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Costa Rica concert June 19, the performance exceeded any heated or tenuou...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now they seem to be on almost ever...
RECITAL REVIEW
Mastercard Performance Series / Saturday, March 07, 2015
Murray Perahia, piano

Pianist Murray Perahia

PERAHIA'S INTENSITY SHINES IN WEILL HALL RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, March 07, 2015

Murray Perahia has built a long pianistic career based on performances of discernment, classical structure and impeccable taste. His playing always exudes a refinement and lapidary attention to musical detail. And so it was in his March 7 Weill Hall debut recital before an audience of 900, with a conventional program of balanced and celebrated works.

Opening the evening Bach’s 6th French Suite (BWV. 817) received a reading emphasizing careful dynamic control, fast tempos in the Courante and Bourrée, intriguing embellishments and much half pedal. In Weill piano concerts with a less-than-full house, fast tempos, diminished volume and legato playing can pose clarity difficulties. And Mr. Perahia’s Bach and the Beethoven “Les Adieux” Sonata that closed the first half, especially in Le Retour, displayed a lack of textural clarity in the fleet sections with large resonance.

This is not to say that the pianist played the Op. 81a Sonata routinely, a piece he has lived with for decades. The Andante Espressivo L’Absence had the requisite sprightly tempo, lovely tone colors and patrician phrasing, and surprisingly in the finale there were doubled left-hand bass chords and brusque sforzandos. The music always had intensity and prismatic tints that shone resplendidly.

New York Times critic Harold Schonberg described Mr. Perahia’s pianism, after honoring the note-perfect mastery and serious musicianship, as in many big works “overly polite.” If that observation was accurate, and I think it was, things have certainly changed, as in Franck’s Prelude, Choral and Finale that opened the second half. In each of the program’s works, save for Haydn’s fleet A-Flat Major Sonata, smudged notes popped up but never affected the music’s impetus or in the Franck the course of the big single melodic idea. The playing captured the piece’s Romantic mystical nature and the Bach references in the Fugue. There were unexpected inner voices and just a little ferocity in the Choral, the focal point of the 1884 piece, a specialty of the late Jorge Bolet.

Chopin’s B Minor Scherzo ended the program. Here Mr. Perahia used big dynamic contrasts to give variety to the many repeats (I have always thought the cut version more effective) and though he eschewed big sonority he seized the Scherzo’s restless momentum and histrionics. The fiery coda went off the tracks in the final tumultuous upward run but the audience rightly loved it and responded with a prolonged standing ovation.

Chopin’s F Major Nocturne from Op. 15 was the first encore, and the playing was curiously lacking in subtle rubatos and had monochromatic tone color. The tranquil cantilena and strong left hand in the turbulent middle section were admirable. Speed returned to buffet clarity in the last encore, Schumann’s Traumes Wirren from the Op. 12 Fantasiestücke. Since these “dreams” are skittish, finger velocity is a necessity, and Mr. Perahia provided it but without transparent control at the highest level of technique.

The pianist’s connection with Weill’s audience was formal and unassuming (minimal bows, austere facial expression) that in some ways reflected his cultivated and assured artistry.