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Opera
SPARKLING CIMAROSA OPERA HIGHLIGHTS MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kathryn Stewart
Friday, July 13, 2018
The Classical music era was a time of extraordinary innovation. Dominated by composers from the German-speaking countries, the period witnessed the handiwork of masterpieces by two classical giants, Haydn and Mozart. Both composers put forth a tremendous catalog of masterful works and perhaps to our...
Symphony
!PURA VIDA! A SONIC TRIUMPH FOR SO CO PHIL IN THRILLING COSTA RICA TOUR CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Long anticipated events, such as a great sporting game, gourmet feast, holiday trip or a concert, occasionally fall way short of expectations. The results don’t measure to expectations. With the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Costa Rica concert June 19, the performance exceeded any heated or tenuou...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
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 they seem to be on almost ever...
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.