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Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
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.