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Chamber
VANHAL QUARTET AT VOM FESTIVAL DISCOVERY AT HANNA CENTER
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 15, 2018
A near-capacity crowd of 220 filled the Sonoma Hanna Boys Center Auditorium July 15 for the opening concert of the fourth Valley of the Moon Music Festival. This Festival presents gems of the Classical and early Romantic periods performed on instruments of the composer’s era, which presents a few ch...
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’...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Elena Ulyanova / Friday, November 14, 2008
Elena Ulyanova, Pianist

ULYANOVA WINS THEM OVER

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, November 20, 2008

A pianist planning a West Coast debut recital in front of a fashionable and cosmopolitan audience faces a daunting prospect, especially when playing virtuoso works familiar to all. Ukrainian pianist Elena Ulyanova surmounted most of these obstacles Nov. 14 with formidable energy at Tiburon’s St. Hilary Church. The event was the second Concerts Grand recital of the year and part of the wildly popular classical series produced by St. Hilary Music Director Vince Stadlin and Cantor Kenneth Graham.

Fresh from recitals in Chicago and Washington DC, Ulyanova began briskly with Soler’s Sonata in D (R. 84), a work which, though effective, reminds one that everything Padre Soler wrote was done much better by Scarlatti, and with more humor by Haydn. Another matter was Beethoven’s Sonata in F, Op. 57 (Appassionata), a driving and dramatic odyssey that allowed Ulyanova full rein in displaying her cross-hand and fast scale technique. As throughout the evening, she chose fast tempos that often blurred the thematic lines and compromised the lyricism. But this is a “go for broke” piece and was not the least underplayed, with Ulyanova pushing lines and suppressing voice leadings to accentuate the excitement. It was a performance quite different from the recent Elena Casanova Appassionata rendition in Ukiah. Both readings were idiomatic and widely diverse in coloristic effects and weight.

The first half closed with the Andante Spianato and Grand Polonaise Brillante in E Flat, Op. 22, an early Chopin work that virtuosos such as Hofmann and Horowitz made famous. The performance was relaxed and architecturally tight, and the poetic Andante was carefully phrased and assured. Rhythms in a Chopin polonaise are tricky to project, especially when played in a sprightly manner, and Ulyanova on this recital decided that rhythmic nuance was subordinate to lyrical momentum. Her concluding cascade of scale passages was effective at full pedal, and she ended with five triumphant E Flat unison chords.

Two Debussy Preludes began the second half, Brouillards and Ondine. Both had the right atmosphere but continued the inclination to fast tempos. This absolute French music is as much about the silences as the actual notes. One longed for other Debussy works to display Ulyanova’s staccato touch, perhaps “La Danse de Puck” or “La Puerta del Vino.”

Two Rachmaninoff selections closed the program, the first the short and dreamy Prelude (in G, Op. 32) and the second the volcanic Second Sonata in B Flat, Op. 36. Ulyanova’s fleet approach was ill-suited to the nostalgic Prelude, the playing of which can evoke memories of cold Russian nights and moonlit snow. Here it sounded like playing in a piano studio, uninvolved, the last three chaste chords played unadorned with no retard or diminuendo.

Any uncertainty about Ulyanova’s command of Rachmaninoff’s bravura was swept away with an orchestral performance of the great Sonata, in the Horowitz edition. The first movement opened with resounding chords in the bass, getting more sound from the house Baldwin concert grand than regular St. Hilary parishioners could remember. The middle movement Non Allegro had the requisite songfulness, though again with a tendency to the perfunctory. The finale brought out all of the pianist’s heavy artillery – massive broken octaves, endurance, wide skips and brilliant passage work. The individual parts of the sonata often seem greater than the whole, but Ulyanova brought opulent passion that conquered all. Nothing was left on the table.

Following the bagatelle of a Scarlatti encore, the audience proceeded to the lavish Parish Hall for a splendid buffet prepared by the church staff, and more piano playing, albeit with less serious repertoire, from Ken Iisaka, Gini Wilson, Kenn Gartner, Elizabeth MacDougall, David Caldine, Elena Casanova and the effervescent St. Hilary Pastor, Fr. James Tarantino.

Note: The reviewer is the producer of Concerts Grand series.