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Recital
SCHUMANN AND BARTOK HIGHLIGHT BRONFMAN RECITAL IN WEILL
by Lee Ormasa
Friday, April 21, 2017
Those people once addicted to the “Angry Birds” game application likely suffered an auditory flashback during the opening measures of the allegro from Bartok’s Suite, Op. 14, the opening work in Yefim Bronfman’s April 21 recital at Weill Hall. The repetitive opening figures of the Bartok were...
Symphony
HULKING MAHLER "TITAN" AT SO CO PHIL'S SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 08, 2017
A composer’s first symphony rarely gives a clear indication of what beautiful complexities will follow over the years. Early Mozart and Tchaikovsky are examples, and the big exceptions to this axiom are the “firsts” of Beethoven, Shostakovich and Mahler. Tackling Mahler ‘s D Major Symphony (No. 1,...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY STAYS CLOSE TO HOME
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 26, 2017
Santa Rosa Symphony concerts usually feature high-powered soloists imported from afar, but for their recent “Bring on the Strings” concert set, they stuck close to home, thrusting their principal violin, viola and cello into the limelight. The violinist (Joseph Edelberg) and the violist (Elizabeth P...
Recital
SLAM BANG SONORITY IN HAOCHEN ZHANG'S SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 19, 2017
Piano Competition winners are in ample supply, and it’s often a hit and miss proposition as to their sterling interpretative qualities. However, the quadrennial Van Cliburn Competition in Ft. Worth has continually produced top-level artists, and the 2009 winner Haochen Zhang proved a formidable per...
Symphony
FOREIGN AFFAIRS CHARACTERS OF THE BAROQUE
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, known as Akamus, played a Weill Hall concert March 12 in a program called "Foreign Affairs -Characters of the Baroque.” The ensemble, that began in 1984, has 15 musicians led by concert master Bernhard Forck. Attired in elegant black with red accents, ranging from tie...
Recital
MUSCULAR PIANISM DOMINATES MILL VALLEY CHAMBER SOCIETY RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Piano recitals since the beginning of the genre open with finger pieces - Scarlatti or Soler Sonatas, Bach, a Mendelssohn Prelude and Fugue or perhaps Mozart or Haydn. Sarah Daneshpour’s March 12 opening work at the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society series abruptly avoided the norm with the 10-minut...
Recital
NOVEL HAYDN AND SCHUMANN IN YARDEN'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, March 09, 2017
Israeli pianist Einav Yarden has been a frequent Sonoma County visitor, playing private recitals for Spring Lake Village and Concerts Grand, and twice performing for Music at Oakmont. The Berlin-based artist returned to Oakmont’s Berger Auditorium March 9 with a program that was neither for connois...
Chamber
CONSUMMATE ENSEMBLE FROM THE MIRÓ IN WEILL
by Sonia Tubridy and Nicki Bell
Sunday, March 05, 2017
A March 5 Weill hall audience of 350 leaned in to share an intimate musical space and to hear the Miró String Quartet’s sterling concert. Starting with Haydn's Op. 20, No. 4, the four musicians seemed to want listeners to be enveloped in their music. The Miró plays with the feat of being four dist...
Recital
BRILLIANT VIOLIN AND PIANO ARTISTRY CHARMS SCHROEDER HALL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 26, 2017
A tiny Schroeder Hall audience heard a flawless recital Feb. 26 by Yu-Chien Tseng, arguably the best recent local violin recital since Gil Shaham’s transversal of the complete Bach Suites in Weill and Frank Almond’s Oakmont recital in 2015. Muscular playing was the afternoon’s norm, and with pianis...
Chamber
MUSIC AND ART MELD IN ZUCKERMAN TRIO CONCERT
by Nicki Bell
Friday, February 24, 2017
A Feb. 24 Weill Hall concert by the Pinchas Zuckerman Trio juxtaposed formidable music making with palpable associations about visual art. Brahms’ C Minor "Sonatensatz” (Scherzo) is a short youthful work for violin and piano, and was an opening call to action. Lively and vigorous playing alternated...
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.