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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 ...
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.