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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
Green Music Center / Friday, June 26, 2015
Natasha Paremski, piano; Malcolm Matthews, organ

Pianist Natasha Paremski

INTREPID VIRTUOSITY IN PAREMSKI'S BRAHMS VARIATIONS

by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 26, 2015

Sonoma County organist James Harrod contributed the organ work analysis in this review.

Pianist Natasha Paremski had the stellar role June 26 in the third Chamberfest program in Schroeder Hall, beginning with Beethoven’s A Flat Sonata, Op. 110. Classical Sonoma was unable to review the Sonata’s performance, said by many in the packed hall to be seminal and inspiring.

Following the Beethoven, organist Malcolm Matthews played three variations of the German Advent hymn “Now Comes the Savior of the Nations” (Nun komm der Heiden Heiland) by Bach on the Schroeder Hall Brombaugh tracker organ.

Mr. Matthews first played the hymn itself, quietly, with the melody sounding on the throaty Krummhorn reed stop of the Rückpositiv. Second, he played the familiar choral variation from “The Little Organ Book” (Das Orgelbüchlein), BWV 599. Last, he performed a far more intricate choral prelude on the same theme from the “18 Great Chorale Preludes,” BWV 661. In this variation, alternating motives are played with the hands on the great manual (Hauptwerk) while the melody is played with the feet using the powerful reed of the pedal division. Mr. Matthews performed each of these settings smoothly and serenely, suggesting intimate friendship with the music and with a clear, but subtle Baroque articulated touch. It was very nicely done.

Not to be outdone by an organist, Ms. Paremski played the Bach-Busoni version of Nun komm der Heiden Heiland later in the program. This was played reverently and sensitively and was very satisfying to hear.

Also performed was an unusual arrangement for piano and organ of three familiar choral preludes from Brahms’ “Eleven Chorale Preludes for the Organ,” Op. 122. The music was divided into fragments in dialogue between the two instruments, almost a “question and answer” format with a postlude character. The result had some lovely moments but not a lasting effect. A video camera and screen in the organ loft depicted the organist’s hands at the two-manual instrument.

Concluding the afternoon and clearly the concert’s highlight was Brahms’ Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Handel, Op. 24. Written in 1862, the Handel Variations (along with sets by Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Reger’s Bach and Telemann Variations) is the greatest work of the type in the repertoire.

Natasha Paremski has made significant changes in her playing since her last Sonoma County appearance in 2012. Still present are the easy virtuosity, big tone and often insouciant in platform manner, but she has added greater control of a large work’s structure and a bevy of interesting inner voices. The pianist began with long trills in the theme and played in a subdued manner until the second Variation, the first time in the piece that it sounds like Brahms. Variation contrast was abundant, and Ms. Paremski underscored this not only by dynamic contrast but also by either slight pauses between the variations or deftly connecting them with the damper pedal in an enharmonic modulation.

As each Variation unfolded Ms. Paremski adopted various touches that gave individuality, even with continual booming sforzandos and in Variation 25 a tempo that almost pushed the music off the rails. Almost. She did not double the left hand B-Flat octave before beginning the fugue, heard in the great recordings of Petri and Solomon. The famous 108-bar fugue was played majestically, intermingling fugal and developmental techniques to produce a weighty resonance, aided by the piano’s massive sonority in the small Schroeder Hall’s acoustically impeccable space.

The performance was easily the finest North Bay Brahms-Handel in memory, and drew a roaring ovation that brought the artist to the front of the stage, holding her right hand to her heart in acknowledgement of the acclaim.