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Chamber
THREE SONG CYCLES HIGHLIGHT VIBRANT SLV RECITAL
by Pamela Hicks-Gailey
Wednesday, May 08, 2019
An ambitious recital of vocal and piano music was presented May 8 at Santa Rosa’s Spring Lake Village by mezzo-soprano Kindra Scharich and pianist Jeffrey LaDeur. The duo engaged the enthusiastic audience with scholarly friendliness and artistry in performances of Beethoven's short cycle of six song...
Symphony
ALEXANDER TORADZE DELIVERS A LESSON IN SERENITY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 05, 2019
An entire concerto movement consisting of serene piano melodies over a soothing backdrop is probably not the first thing that springs to mind when seeing Shostakovich’s name on an orchestra program, but that’s exactly what pianist Alexander Toradze delivered--twice--at Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony c...
Symphony
MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON CLOSES WITH AUTUMNAL ELGAR AND THEATRICAL BEETHOVEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, April 28, 2019
Mozart’s enchanting Overture to his opera The Magic Flute, a miniature tapestry of gems from the 1791 work, opened the Marin Symphony’s final concert of the 2018-2019 season. Under conductor Alasdair Neale, the playing of the sprightly seven-minute piece by a reduced-size classical ensemble sparkled...
Recital
SHAHAM-EGUCHI DUO'S EXCITING MUSICAL GENEROSITY IN WEILL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, April 26, 2019
Violinist Gil Shaham may be the most modest virtuoso on the concert stage today, and it is the great music he most wishes to put forward, never himself. Generosity, a quality he is known for, was abundantly clear in Weill Hall April 26 when he performed, with pianist Akira Eguchi, a generous program...
Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s Sonoma Overt...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
Chamber
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, perfor...
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.