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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 Franciscoís Philharmonia Baroque mounted Handelís eminent three-part 1742 Orato...
Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sundayís 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 Gramsí inconsistency may have st...
Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franckís wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on todayís concert programs, and I canít 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 Ė symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals Ė 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 weekendís 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 Matsuevís 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 Tchaikovskyís big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboaís 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
Respighiís 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
MIR” QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma Countyís 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
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, Prokofievís 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 díAlbert, 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, Barberís Nocturne, Op. 33 (Homage to John Field) Nissman brought out a flexible rhythmic pattern combined with a nineteenth-century melody and twentieth-century harmonies. Itís 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 composerís 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 composerís nine, and was played with an idiomatic detache touch and assured command. Nissmanís teacher, Gyorgy Sandor, played everything Prokofiev wrote, and his tutelage certainly shaped Nissmanís sovereign command of Prokofievís 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 Ulyanovaís perfunctory performance a week earlier in Tiburon. In the penultimate chord, Nissman took just a little more time, affirming the composerís wistful vision of a cold Russian night. Nissmanís 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 ďsleigh bellsĒ of the Op. 33, No. 2, Study were minimized by a hard touch.

Formally closing the protracted second half was an intense interpretation of Lisztís B Minor Sonata, a work recently performed in Newman by Angela Hewitt and Garrick Ohlsson. Nissmanís reading was more akin to Hewittís tempos than Ohlssonís 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. Nissmanís 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 Barereís impetuous recording from the LP era, and brought to pass some close calls with control at both ends of the keyboard. However, thatís what in the end made Nissmanís 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: Chopinís D Flat Nocturne from Op. 27, and two of Ginasteraís 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.