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Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now it seems to be on almost every...
Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the season’s final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church, as the performers...
Chamber
TRIO NAVARRO'S POPULAR FARE IN SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 08, 2018
Long time Classical Sonoma readers may recall many Trio Navarro concert reviews that lauded their virtuosity and interest in rarely played repertoire. The April 8 concert in Schroeder Hall before 85 chamber music fans featured sterling performances but had a mostly conservative menu of popular trio...
Recital
KENNER'S ALL POLISH RECITAL HAS PADEREWSKI RARITY
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, April 08, 2018
Kevin Kenner’s April 8 recital at Dominican University’s Angelico Hall had been advertised as all-Chopin, but he added a detour into another seminal Polish composer-pianist, Paderewski. Several of Mr. Kenner’s teachers were Poles, he speaks Polish, and he navigated at the piano both composers’ deman...
Symphony
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE VOICE AT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, April 08, 2018
In an April 8 Santa Rosa Symphony concert filled to the brim with instruments--electric violin, vibraphone, marimba, xylophone, glockenspiel, keyboard samplers, harps, piano and myriad drums, gongs and bells, to say nothing of winds, brass and strings--the instrument that came out on top was the hum...
Chamber
VOM FESTIVAL TRIO CHARMS WITH CHAMBER MIX, AND HUMMEL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, March 31, 2018
At the core of the group of Valley of the Moon Music Festival (VOM) musicians is an ensemble of trios and duos, and as a trio March 31 Festival founders cellist Tanya Tomkins and pianist Eric Zivian joined British violinist Monica Huggett for a chamber music concert in the Green Music Center’s Schro...
Choral and Vocal
GOOD FRIDAY REQUIEM FILLS INCARNATION
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 30, 2018
Maurice Duruflé’s short and intense Requiem has been heard in Santa Rosa’s Church of the Incarnation before, but the March 30 Good Friday performance was stripped down in the number of performers, combining Cantiamo Sonoma and the St. Cecilia Choir with musical underpinning from organist Robert Youn...
Symphony
HAMELIN'S HUSKY MOOD IN SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 25, 2018
Convention in piano recitals has the artist coming on stage and playing. Canadian pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin walked on Schroeder Hall’s stage March 25 and didn’t play for six minutes, chatting with the audience. A risk for some artists. Then most programs include a contemporary or rarely play...
Recital
VIRTUOSIC VARIATIONS IN MORGAN'S SCHROEDER ORGAN RECITAL
by Paul Blanchard
Sunday, March 18, 2018
Organist Robert Huw Morgan’s artistry spun through the web of early variation form in a Mar. 18 recital on Schroeder Hall’s wonderful Brombaugh organ. Mr. Morgan, Stanford University’s resident organist, performs a wide range of repertoire, but as he said in comments to the audience, he loves when h...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Music at Oakmont / Thursday, December 10, 2015
Frank Almond, violin; William Wolfram, piano

Violinist Frank Almond

BRAWNEY ARTISTRY IN ALMOND-WOLFRAM MUSIC AT OAKMONT RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, December 10, 2015

Scintillating string playing has always been a feature of the Music at Oakmont concerts, but Dec. 10’s recital by violinist Frank Almond and pianist William Wolfram was exceptionally virtuosic and musically convincing.

The cornerstone of the performance came in the second half with a brawny reading of a titular work in the violin repertoire, Beethoven’s dramatic A Major Sonata, Op. 47 (Kreutzer). Playing without score, as he did the entire recital, Mr. Almond managed the fast tempo broken thirds and sixths in the opening Adagio – Presto with aplomb, and surmounted the technical hurdles in the graceful slow movement of trills and lyrical lightness. The piece’s famous first measures before the pianist enters, where there is string movement from the second to third chord (both in thirds), and then thee pianist with broken sixth chords, were deftly played. It’s not easy to do.

In the Andante there was some note blurring in quick passages but the violinist’s playing was always clear, with alternating seconds, at the top of the instrument’s register. Mr. Wolfram had an amazing trill technique here, even and easily swelling from piano to forte. The finale was “off to the races” in tempo, making the most of the composer’s dazzling inventiveness and mastery.

Over 45 minutes, this “Kreutzer” with all the repeats was held beautifully together by the duo and was a potent musical achievement.

In older days violin recitals frequently began with a middle drawer baroque piece, sometimes Tartini’s Devil’s Trill or Didone Abbandonata, or the Vitali Chaconne, or some Geminiani. Mr. Almond performed the Tartini G Minor “Devil’s Trill,” a 14-minute work with a mostly continuo part for the piano. I think the Kreisler cadenza was selected, and the performance was at turns virtuosic and even splashy with pithy small slides and sometimes comely phrasing.

Before intermission two disparate pieces were played, one arguably the greatest single work for the solo violin, and the other a late romantic sonata by an unknown Swedish composer, Amanda Röntgen-Maier. From the late 1880s, the Sonata in B Minor has hints of Rubinstein, Grieg and especially Schumann, but easily stands on its own. Mr. Almond underscored a slow wistfulness in the Andantino – Allegrettoand his use of pizzicato moving into the coda with a delicate soft bow was captivating. Grieg’s music, especially the great C Minor Sonata, seems to influence the finale, and Mr. Wolfram gave its surging passion powerful pianism. The violinist was less persuasive in the last forceful bars that needed a more soaring violin line. In sum, a very good reading of an attractive Sonata that needs more concert exposure.

Mr. Almond then played the justly iconic Bach Chaconne (from the D minor Partita, BWV 1004), and it seemed too easy to compare his performance with Gil Shaham’s March transversal of all the solo Bach Sonatas and Partitas in nearby Weill Hall. Easy because Mr. Shaham was consistently fast with tempos, and Mr. Almond was uniformly fast in phrasing. Perhaps it was simply the artist’s mood on a rainy Thursday and the compressed succinct scales and agogics were certainly convincing in their way. But this great music can profit with taking a little more time before transitions in the variations, and adopting more elasticity in note values.

Mr. Almond was a witty and informative speaker to the 200 in Berger Auditorium, describing each work and charmingly referring to Robert Hayden, Music at Oakmont’s founder and the star of a birthday reception following in the hall after the recital. The artist also spoke of the relationship of his Stradivarius violin, called the “Lipinski,” to the compositions on the program. There is speculation that Carl Lipinski (1790-1861) played all the works in the program (save for the Röntgen-Maier Sonata) with this violin.

Clara Schumann’s Romance from Op. 22 was the one encore, played flawlessly with wide vibrato and luminous tone from both performers.

This was clearly one of the finest violin recitals in the North Bay in many years.

Bay area violinist Bronislaw Rabin contributed to this review.