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Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
Chamber
UNEXPECTED ARENSKY AND MENDELSSOHN BY THE NAVARRO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
The 100 people entering Schroeder Hall Feb. 17 for a Trio Navarro concert were handed a program that appeared to feature two popular piano trios, Mendelssohn and Arensky. But continuing the Navarro’s tradition of repertoire exploration, the pieces were not the usual first Mendelssohn and first Aren...
Recital
GLOVER'S ECLECTIC PROGRAMMING HIGHLIGHT'S CINNABAR RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
Daniel Glover is arguably the busiest virtuoso pianist in the San Francisco Bay area, but rarely is heard in North Bay concerts. So 90 local pianophiles were anxious to hear him Feb. 17 in Petaluma’s charming small Cinnabar Theater, and they were rewarded with an eclectic program of sometimes unfam...
Symphony
MENDELSSOHN'S SCOTTISH SAVES THE EVENING IN SRS WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Monday, February 11, 2019
The audience entering Weill Hall for Santa Rosa Symphony concerts Feb. 9-11 were presented with a program that on first glance appeared a curious patchwork – a great symphony mixed with a seldom heard concerto and two disparate overtures, and a guest conductor unknown locally. Monday night’s concer...
Recital
INTRIGUING BELL-HAYWOOD RECITAL BEFORE FULL HOUSE IN WEILL HALL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, February 08, 2019
A big portion of the capacity audience in Weill Hall February 8th came to hear violinist Joshua Bell’s virtuosity, and were treated as well to splendid playing from Sam Haywood, Mr. Bell’s regular pianist since 2010. The duo performed three engaging sonatas, highlighted by Mr. Bell’s sterling techn...
Symphony
TRIPLE PLAY UKIAH SYMPHONY CONCERT AND TCHAIKOVSKY SERENADE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Over the years the Ukiah Symphony’s concerts have been in the Classical Sonoma Calendar sections, but rarely has this Orchestra, now in its 39th season, had a full winter season concert review. The provocative Jan. 27 program in Mendocino College’s Center Theater seemed a good reason to reacquaint ...
Symphony
JACKSON THEATER WELCOMES A NEW RESIDENT ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Moving to a permanent new performance venue can be a perilous undertaking for an orchestra, with different acoustics, the loyal audience finding the new spot and infrastructure challenges of lighting and lobby and backstage operations. In their first concert Jan. 26 in Windsor’s Jackson Theater the...
Symphony
ECLECTIC PASSIONATE PROGRAMMING AT MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 26, 2019
The Marin Symphony’s second Masterworks concert of the 2018-19 season featured works by John Adams, Sibelius and Brahms, a masterful assembly. In a spoken introduction before the program’s first half, conductor Alasdair Neale primed the audience for the “terra incognita” of Adams’ The Chairman Dance...
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.