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Symphony
A HEALTHY MIX OF TRANSCRIPTIONS AND ORIGINALS FROM THE SR SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Transcriptions and ascending arpeggios were the order of the day on Jan. 24, as the Santa Rosa Symphony performed uplifting works by Bach/Webern, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Marianna Martínes and Mozart. The concert video was made in Weill Hall on Jan. 9. The first transcription was Webern’s 1935 renderi...
Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
CHAMBER REVIEW
SRJC Chamber Concerts / Friday, November 21, 2008
Barbara Nissman, pianist

NISSMAN PLAYS RANDOLPH NEWMAN RECITAL AT SRJC

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 22, 2008

In the annual Randolph Newman recital at SRJC Nov. 21, pianist Barbara Nissman played a long and intensive concert with two monumental sonatas at the core, Prokofiev’s Sixth and the Liszt B Minor. Everything else on the program, heard by an almost full house in Newman Auditorium, seemed a little beside the point when Nissman charged headlong into these two pillars of pianistic drama, composed about 100 years apart.

Beginning with short but illuminating remarks to the audience, Nissman launched her program with a long-forgotten Bach transcription from the 19th Century. Not by d’Albert, Bulow, Siloti or Busoni, but the Organ Prelude and Fugue from Liszt in A Minor. It was a propitious start, and the performance was well crafted without being especially powerful. In another rarely-performed work, Barber’s Nocturne, Op. 33 (Homage to John Field) Nissman brought out a flexible rhythmic pattern combined with a nineteenth-century melody and twentieth-century harmonies. It’s good to hear a Barber piece other than the Sonata and Souvenirs, and it was played masterfully.

Known as a Prokofiev specialist, Nissman played the composer’s Sonata No. 6, Op. 82,
highlighting the biting dissonances in the first Allegro Moderato movement and carefully shaping the lyricism in the middle of the march-like second movement. A long, slow waltz (third movement) received some of the loveliest playing of the evening, especially with the elegant diminuendos at the end of nearly every phrase. The fleet Vivace Rondo concluded the Sonata, the largest of the composer’s nine, and was played with an idiomatic detache touch and assured command. Nissman’s teacher, Gyorgy Sandor, played everything Prokofiev wrote, and his tutelage certainly shaped Nissman’s sovereign command of Prokofiev’s oeuvre.

Six short Rachmaninoff pieces began the second half, split evenly between Preludes and Etudes-Tableux. The popular Prelude in G, Op. 32, was played briskly and with deeper tone and more rhythmic subtlety than Elena Ulyanova’s perfunctory performance a week earlier in Tiburon. In the penultimate chord, Nissman took just a little more time, affirming the composer’s wistful vision of a cold Russian night. Nissman’s pianistic color is most effective at less than high volume, allowing more treble richness to be heard, and the balance between her hands was uniformly exemplary. She has a pianissimo shimmer which in the many bantamweight piece endings worked to great effect, even when the luminous “sleigh bells” of the Op. 33, No. 2, Study were minimized by a hard touch.

Formally closing the protracted second half was an intense interpretation of Liszt’s B Minor Sonata, a work recently performed in Newman by Angela Hewitt and Garrick Ohlsson. Nissman’s reading was more akin to Hewitt’s tempos than Ohlsson’s monumental and orchestral playing from 2006. And the tempos were pretty fast. The Sonata, according to Liszt biographer Alan Walker, usually clocks in just a little under a half hour. Nissman’s driven playing registered at 27 minutes, causing left-hand blurs in measure 31 (where one looks for a resounding and triumphant B to sound) and some indistinct right-hand scales. Even the wonderful recitatives, chorales actually, needed a more expansive and judicious pace to counter the massive 12 chords coming between each chorale.

The playing before the fugue was amorously touching, pedaled with great care. However, the speed chosen for the fugue was as fast as I can ever recall, save for Barere’s impetuous recording from the LP era, and brought to pass some close calls with control at both ends of the keyboard. However, that’s what in the end made Nissman’s Liszt a compelling experience, as she surrendered architecture and voice leading opportunities in favor of a hurtling passion and sonic contrast. The last chords were perfectly weighted and resplendent, the bottom B ending an exalted musical journey.

Responding to the unified cheers of 170 in the hall, Nissman generously replied with three encores: Chopin’s D Flat Nocturne from Op. 27, and two of Ginastera’s popular Danzas Argentinas, Op. 2. The Nocturne was lavished with a captivating tone and precise control of the line, and perhaps lacked only the last ounce of spirituality of the classic Lipatti recording or a memorable Artur Rubinstein performance at UCLA on his farewell American tour. The Danza de la Moza Dinosa had seductive languor, the Danza Gaucho Matrero concluding with virtuosic spirit and two fiery glissandos.