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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 Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque mounted Handel’s eminent three-part 1742 Orato...
Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sunday’s 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 Grams’ inconsistency may have st...
Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t 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 – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – 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 weekend’s 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 Matsuev’s 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 Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s 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
Respighi’s 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
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s 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 ...
RECITAL REVIEW
Mastercard Performance Series / Friday, January 22, 2016
Marc-André Hamelin, piano

Pianist Marc-André Hamelin

INSPIRED SCHUBERT IN BRILLIANT HAMELIN RECITAL IN WEILL

by Terry McNeill
Friday, January 22, 2016

In addition his brilliant pianism, Marc-André Hamelin has built a substantial international career by embracing unconventional repertoire and innovative transcriptions. Who else plays Catoire, Hofmann, Chopin-Godowsky, Dukas, Medtner and…Hamelin?

So the Canadian’s Jan. 22 Weill Hall recital was a surprise with the first and last works being popular Mozart and Schubert Sonatas. But they were great Sonatas, especially the opening Mozart D Major work (K. 576) that was played with easy grace and harmonic highlighting. Even when the music turned playful the tempos were never rushed. Purists might abhor the pianist’s ritards in the final two movements, but Mr. Hamelin is a romantic at heart, and the music can accept such warm treatment.

Many of the Allegro’s speedy right hand scales were on the edge of blurring, but Mr. Hamelin let a lot of repose into the Adagio, abetted by one delicious ritard. Jaunty playing characterized the finale. It may not have been Mozart to everyone’s taste, but I found it persuasive.

Turning to Book II of Debussy’s Images, Mr. Hamelin spun a lovely web of color with sensitive pedaling and phrase nuance to generate a memorable reading. Both the “Cloches á travers” and “Et la lune” were atmospherically beguiling and had transparent sonorities. The chime effects were captivating, as were the dissonant seconds in “Et la lune.” The pianist’s control was sovereign in the concluding “Poissons d’or.” The tremolos, carefully graded arpeggios and a powerful coda floated and then burst over the Hall’s audience, small at 350 for such a virtuosic and widely-admired pianist.

Virtuoso was the word for the two Hamelin pieces that closed the first half, Pavane Variée and Variations on a Theme of Paganini. The latter was the best, a champagne orgy of sonority exploration, especially in the bass register. Commanding every part of the keyboard, Mr. Hamelin’s octave playing was superb, and along the way a sweet phrase was shattered by dissonant runs in each hand. No reference to composers other than Mr. Hamelin could be heard, and the famous theme appeared in every guise and finally brought down the house with huge volumes of sound.

The Pavane began with interesting chord progressions but quickly the chaste theme is lost in a tsunami of notes and mostly inconsequential effects. There are hints of Debussy, Rachmaninoff and Szymanowski in this music, but only hints. But again, what other pianist in the recent Green Music Center has played self-composed music? Mr. Hamelin’s pianism is never less than provocative.

Schubert’s seminal B Flat Sonata (D. 960), his last one from 1828, comprised the second half. It’s interesting to note how popular this work has become, juxtaposed with the lack of interest in Schubert by famed “Golden Age” piano virtuosi. The first recording of any Schubert Sonata was as late as 1928!

This evening Mr. Hamelin played the rapturous first-movement themes slowly and with palpable concentration. He was clearly inspired, breaking an occasional left-hand chord and inserting many tiny ritards. At all times he keeps his left foot on the shift pedal and gets the resulting color effects from the instrument that lesser artists miss. Just before the return of the exposition in piano he played the 8-bar dramatic fortissimo eruption that used to be omitted, but now is frequently played. There were extended pauses between some sections, as much as three to five seconds, that gave a sacred and focused character to the music. The chordal weighting was masterly and he used the damper pedal twice with the ending chords, avoiding a fermata.

The slow and stately Andante was underplayed, beautifully voiced with smooth transitions to new keys. The attacks were precise. Such playing was all the more impressive when contrasted with the following Scherzo, as the latter whizzed by with a slightly spunky dance in the middle and accented left-hand notes.

After so much meticulous attention to the composer’s majestic creation Mr. Hamelin produced a more vigorous (but never coarse) sound in the finale, using much damper pedal but again slowing for modulations and some lovely voice leading. It was a 46-minute performance, never sounding long, of spiritual beauty and exalted pianism. Though called back three times, Mr. Hamelin offered no encore. However, the anticipated fun of hearing several of his splashy post-program bagatelles was wholly offset by a Schubert Sonata performance to long cherish.

The marvelous Mr. Hamelin played the finest piano concert in Weill since the long ago Garrick Ohlsson recital.