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Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
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.