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Recital
HOME RECITAL BACH COMPLETES HOLIDAY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 30, 2017
The just closing 2017 year was a calamity for many, but locally in music there were joys galore, and it was fitting Dec. 30 have the balm of two Bach’s violin sonatas in a private Guerneville home recital hosted by the eminent musician Sonia Tubridy. Violinist Richard Heinberg joined Ms. Tubridy in...
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 WITH 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...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Mastercard Performance Series / Friday, May 08, 2015
Jeffrey Kahane, piano

Pianist Jeffrey Kahane

REFRESHMENT FOR OUR SPIRITS

by Sonia Tubridy
Friday, May 08, 2015

On Friday, May 8, Jeffrey Kahane delivered a tour-de-force piano recital at Weill Hall. The program consisted two great sets of variations for piano, Bach's brilliant Goldberg Variations and Beethoven's Opus 109 Sonata, whose third movement offers transcendent variations on a simple theme.

Kahane opened the recital with an impassioned reading of the Beethoven sonata. His performance was fast and full of fire, with moments of deep lyricism and the appearance of many surprising inner voices. The driving and startling prestissimo second movement led to the heart of the sonata, the theme and variations of the third movement, which is marked: "Songlike with greatest inwardness of feeling." The chorale-like theme is continuously transformed by the six variations, culminating in a glorious trill section that spins into new worlds of ecstatic imagination before dying back down to the original song and its simple humanity. In Beethoven's words: "Before my departure for the Elysian fields I must leave behind me what the Eternal Spirit has infused into my soul and bids me complete." Kahane gave us a glimpse of the beauty of that world and what lies beyond and within.

After intermission, the audience returned for the monumental and unequaled Goldberg Variations. In 1741, an insomniac Russian ambassador to Saxony, Count Keyserlingk, asked if Bach could write some “smooth and somewhat lively” pieces for his harpsichordist Johann Goldberg to play so the count “might be a little cheered up by them in his sleepless nights," according to Bach’s biographer Johann Forkel. What a humble origin for one of the greatest musical achievements in existence!

The opening Aria, a Sarabande, slow in triple meter, was lovely in its subtle timings and voicing, by turns simple, unassuming, highly ornamented and graceful. The bass and harmony line connect the following variations, much in the manner of a Chaconne. A desire for order and the logic of numbers governs the form of this work in multiple and overlapping ways. The variations are in groups of three, with the third variation being a canon progressively on the next larger interval (from unison to a ninth) as we move through the piece. Bach explores the many possibilities of complex polyphonic techniques; variations based on Baroque dances; feats of keyboard technique; and harmonic and rhythmic inventiveness. The last variation interweaves several German folksongs, one of which is about cabbage and turnips.

Kahane's playing was enthralling. It had great liveliness, speed and charisma, and also color and delightful keyboard gymnastics. He was master and friend of his instrument, able to use all a piano can offer, from cascades of joyous sounds to heartbreaking poignancy. The musical journey was enriched by awareness and glimpses of the connection between Bach and Beethoven. Kahane revealed himself as an artist of great intelligence and dazzling technique. In the words inscribed on the first edition of the Goldberg Variations, he offered "refreshment for the spirit." The audience emerged renewed and grateful.