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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...
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.