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Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
Chamber
UNEXPECTED ARENSKY AND MENDELSSOHN BY THE NAVARRO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
The 100 people entering Schroeder Hall Feb. 17 for a Trio Navarro concert were handed a program that appeared to feature two popular piano trios, Mendelssohn and Arensky. But continuing the Navarro’s tradition of repertoire exploration, the pieces were not the usual first Mendelssohn and first Aren...
Recital
GLOVER'S ECLECTIC PROGRAMMING HIGHLIGHT'S CINNABAR RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
Daniel Glover is arguably the busiest virtuoso pianist in the San Francisco Bay area, but rarely is heard in North Bay concerts. So 90 local pianophiles were anxious to hear him Feb. 17 in Petaluma’s charming small Cinnabar Theater, and they were rewarded with an eclectic program of sometimes unfam...
Symphony
MENDELSSOHN'S SCOTTISH SAVES THE EVENING IN SRS WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Monday, February 11, 2019
The audience entering Weill Hall for Santa Rosa Symphony concerts Feb. 9-11 were presented with a program that on first glance appeared a curious patchwork – a great symphony mixed with a seldom heard concerto and two disparate overtures, and a guest conductor unknown locally. Monday night’s concer...
Recital
INTRIGUING BELL-HAYWOOD RECITAL BEFORE FULL HOUSE IN WEILL HALL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, February 08, 2019
A big portion of the capacity audience in Weill Hall February 8th came to hear violinist Joshua Bell’s virtuosity, and were treated as well to splendid playing from Sam Haywood, Mr. Bell’s regular pianist since 2010. The duo performed three engaging sonatas, highlighted by Mr. Bell’s sterling techn...
Symphony
TRIPLE PLAY UKIAH SYMPHONY CONCERT AND TCHAIKOVSKY SERENADE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Over the years the Ukiah Symphony’s concerts have been in the Classical Sonoma Calendar sections, but rarely has this Orchestra, now in its 39th season, had a full winter season concert review. The provocative Jan. 27 program in Mendocino College’s Center Theater seemed a good reason to reacquaint ...
Symphony
JACKSON THEATER WELCOMES A NEW RESIDENT ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Moving to a permanent new performance venue can be a perilous undertaking for an orchestra, with different acoustics, the loyal audience finding the new spot and infrastructure challenges of lighting and lobby and backstage operations. In their first concert Jan. 26 in Windsor’s Jackson Theater the...
Symphony
ECLECTIC PASSIONATE PROGRAMMING AT MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 26, 2019
The Marin Symphony’s second Masterworks concert of the 2018-19 season featured works by John Adams, Sibelius and Brahms, a masterful assembly. In a spoken introduction before the program’s first half, conductor Alasdair Neale primed the audience for the “terra incognita” of Adams’ The Chairman Dance...
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.