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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 ...
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.