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Recital
HOME RECITAL BACH COMPLETES HOLIDAY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 30, 2017
The just closing 2017 year was a calamity for many, but locally in music there were joys galore, and it was fitting Dec. 30 have the balm of two Bach’s violin sonatas in a private Guerneville home recital hosted by the eminent musician Sonia Tubridy. Violinist Richard Heinberg joined Ms. Tubridy in...
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 WITH 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...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Mastercard Performance Series / Friday, March 25, 2016
Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal. Kent Nagano, conductor. Daniil Trifonov, piano

Conductor Kent Nagano

CENTURY-OLD MUSIC REMAINS EXPLOSIVE IN EXTRAVAGANT WEILL CONCERT PERFORMANCE

by Nicki Bell
Friday, March 25, 2016

A spectacular performance of Debussy, Prokofiev and Stravinsky with a virtuoso orchestra and a brilliant pianist will long be remembered by the fortunate 1,000 in Weill Hall March 25. The Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal itself is huge, nearly 110 musicians, and it completely filled the stage and risers. The black outlines of two exquisite-looking harps, art nouveau furniture pieces in exotic woods, added a skyline above the violins. Kent Nagano, a precise and elegant conductor, drew a gorgeous and clear sound from the players throughout.

This was a fascinating program, the pieces all avant-garde in their time and still sound relevant today, and were composed roughly a century ago. Debussy’s Jeux opened, followed by Prokofiev’s C Major Concerto (No. 3) with the remarkable young Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov. Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring (Sacre du Printemps) was the expected powerful second half. Both Jeux and Rite were composed for Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, and choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky and premiered within weeks of each other in Paris in 1913.

Jeux depicts a garden at night (the ballet drew on golf, tennis and jazz postures and was not a hit) with short musical themes, one quickly following another, clarinets and harps opening the curtains on the bushes and brambles, light playing on leaves, a bouncing ball. A painting in sound, strokes of color, washes in sound that can trigger the imagination. The woodwinds called forth a playfulness in the music. Exquisite playing.

Prokofiev first started working on this Concerto while still a student at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, and completed the work in 1921 and performed the solo part in Chicago the same year. A virtuoso pianist, the composer could play the herculean technical challenges he had written as of course Mr. Trifonov did here. The opening notes of clarinet merged with a lyrical and meandering string quality, and then the driving orchestra hijacks everything. These clarinet melodic notes become motovic material for the movement, and when the second theme joins both they were deftly enlarged and shaped by Mr. Nagano.

A theme and variations second movement brings out opposing character in the same musical material, and there is humor here as well as lush lyricism. The ostensibly quiet soloist had an animal character, moving like a cat stroking the keys and then mastering terrifying and crazy double octaves up and down the keyboard with joyful exuberance. He seemed to bounce up and down, his nose inches from the piano keys.

The third movement is a tour de forces with long legato string lines to a hair-raising coda that increased in energy with insistent orchestra rhythms, and the pianist played hand-over-hand until his digits became a blur. The audience of course went wild and the artist returned to the stage to play an outrageous and marvelous transcription of the Johann Strauss Overture to the opera “Die Fledermaus.” Mr. Trifonov is a mesmerizing pianist, part Liszt and part Glenn Gould, and his technique is off the charts, albeit with depth and sensitivity. Still at the beginning of a big career, he is also an upcoming composer.

As though this drama wasn’t sufficient, in the second half Stravinsky’s seminal work still shocks after a century. Inaugurating a new era in music, the performance riot it caused at the Paris opera is legendary. At that debut the audience outrage was so loud and prolonged that the onstage dancers could not hear the orchestra. The frenetic and propulsive score depicts a series of scenes from pagan rituals around the coming of spring, culminating in a chosen maiden dancing to her death. There are Russian folk tunes, incessant driving rhythms and potent syncopation that create a pulsating, throbbing machine of sound.

It was a perfect vehicle for admiring the resplendent Montreal ensemble’s mighty sonority, and under Mr. Nagano’s direction the piece never went off the tracks. It is a signature work for this orchestra, performed constantly for fifty years with many conductors.

The audience kept bringing Mr. Nagano back so often that he responded by leading two encores, the first being Debussy’s “Prelude de l’apres-midi d’un Faune.” It was lovely and seemed to have been waiting in the wings since Jeux. The playing of the solo flutist was captivating, setting the melodic tone as did clarinets in the Prokofiev and bassoons, clarinets and horns in Sacre. Peaceful and lush, it calmed the hall. Finally the concert closed with the delight of Bizet’s Suite No. 1 from the long forgotten stage play “L’Arlesienne.”

It was a stunning musical evening.