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Chamber
EXTRAVAGANT FUSION OF STYLES AT CHRIS BOTTI BAND WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Jerry Dibble
Sunday, August 12, 2018
Trumpeter Chris Botti still performs in jazz venues including SF Jazz and The Blue Note, but now appears mostly in cavernous halls or on outdoor stages like the Sonoma State University’s Green Music Center. He brought his unique road show to the packed Weill Hall August 12 in a concert of effusive e...
Chamber
SCHUBERT "MIT SCHLAG" AT VOM FESTIVAL MORNING CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 29, 2018
The spirit of 19th century Vienna was present July 29 on the final day of the Valley of the Moon Music Festival. The Festival in the second half of July glittered with innovative programming and the new, old sound of original instruments played by musicians who love music with historic instruments. ...
Chamber
PASSIONATE BRAHMS-SCHOENBERG MUSIC CLOSES VOM FESTIVAL SUMMER
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 29, 2018
An extraordinary program of chamber music by Brahms and Schoenberg attracted a capacity crowd to the Valley of the Moon Music Festival’s final concert July 29th in Sonoma’s Hanna Center. It opened with a richly expressive reading by Festival Laureate violinist Rachell Wong and pianist Jeffrey LaDeur...
Chamber
PRAGUE AND VIENNA PALACE GEMS HIGHLIGHT VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, July 28, 2018
The remarkable Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival presented a concert called “Kinsky Palace” July 28 on their final Festival weekend in Sonoma’s Hanna Center. Two well-known treasures and one lesser gem were programmed. Starting the afternoon offerings were violinist Monica Huggett and Fest...
Chamber
INNOVATIVE CHAMBER WORKS IN HANNA CENTER CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, July 22, 2018
The Valley of the Moon Music Festival presented a July 22 concert featuring three giants: Haydn, Schubert and Schumann, composers who altered music of their time with creative innovations and artistic vision. In the fourth season the Festival’s theme this year is “Vienna in Transition”, and VOM Fes...
Chamber
VIENNA INSPIRATION FOR VOM FESTIVAL PROGRAM AT HANNA CENTER
by Nicki Bell
Saturday, July 21, 2018
A music-loving audience filled Sonoma’s Hanna Center Auditorium July 21 to begin a record weekend of three concerts, produced by the Valley of the Moon Music Festival. The Festival’s theme this summer is “Venice in Transition – From the Enlightenment to the Dawn of Modernism” Prior to Saturday’s m...
Chamber
VANHAL QUARTET AT VOM FESTIVAL DISCOVERY AT HANNA CENTER
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 15, 2018
A near-capacity crowd of 220 filled the Sonoma Hanna Boys Center Auditorium July 15 for the opening concert of the fourth Valley of the Moon Music Festival. This Festival presents gems of the Classical and early Romantic periods performed on instruments of the composer’s era, which presents a few ch...
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...
RECITAL REVIEW
Mastercard Performance Series / Friday, April 01, 2016
Andre Watts, piano

Pianist Andre Watts at the end of his April 1 Weill Hall Recital

LISZT AND CHOPIN THE VEHICLE FOR ELEGANT PIANISM IN WATTS' WEILL HALL RECITAL

by Nicki Bell
Friday, April 01, 2016

In the public eye for more than 50 years, Andre Watts is a legendary American pianist from the bygone era of William Kapell and Gary Graffman. Dressed in concert tails, old fashioned now to some, he reverted April 1 to a another long ago virtuoso’s choice by bringing to his Weill Hall recital his own piano and technician.

He played a program of popular works – Mozart, Schubert, Chopin and Liszt – but it took a while for the artist to hit his stride. He began with Mozart’s deceptively simple A Minor Rondo, K. 511, and all the pianistic elements were in place but the notes seemed disconnected from any palpable life force. The rest of the first half was Schubert: Drei Klavierstücke and the C Major Fantasy (“Wanderer”), Op. 15. The Klavierstücke are really a set of impromptus, though not as famous as the Op. 90 and 142 sets, and were written in the last year of the composer’s short life. As with the Mozart, it took time to adjust to Mr. Watts’ touch, as it was often harsh with a muddy piano sound and frequent over-pedaling. Yet, there were beautiful voicings, accurate fingers, wide dynamic range and plenty of drama.

The “Wanderer” had plenty of that drama and abundant virtuosity in the Presto and Allegro, an expressive Adagio, but it wasn’t magical Schubert. It was as though the audience of 800 was being driven in a high-powered vehicle but seeing just the road, not the bucolic scenery, and the notes were disconnected from the palpable musical fabric. The fugue had momentum but didn’t lead inexorably to the potent coda.

Fortunately the second half was a different experience, as the musical vehicle left the road and drove into a colorful countryside. The music found its breath, and Mr. Watts, a fine Liszt and Chopin player, shaped the music in exploration and not simply presentation.

Chopin’s beloved G Minor Ballade (Op. 23) was first, a work the Pole wrote in his early twenties, and highlights the composer’s creative and technical abilities. The reading had elegance and sweeping filigree with the delicate and dreamy contrasting with the passionate and brilliant. It was a bold performance, but expressive silkiness would have to wait for the programmed Liszt pieces.

The Liszt had two etudes framing four pieces composed late in the composer’s life. First came The D Flat Concert Etude (Un Sospiro), full of deft arpeggios, and Mr. Watts underscored the beautiful melody plucked from the stream of notes in both hands, crossing and uncrossing, with adroit silences that didn’t break the line. The final notes were played quietly, a resolution.

Mr. Watts’ virtuosity is at home in Liszt and he captured the shimmering trills in Nuages Gris (gray clouds), bell sounds in the 1885 Nocturne En Rêve (a dream), and the premonition of death in a Dante Infernoesque La Lagubre Gondola (dismal gondola). At that time the composer was preoccupied with melancholy and death, and the piece was a response to watching a Venice canal funeral procession and the prospect of Wagner’s 1883 death. The intensity of Mr. Watts’ playing made time stop with the last wandering notes. “Schlaflas Frage and Antwort (sleepless, question and answer) is a romantic fragment, so chromatic that it is almost unmoored from harmony.

Closing the recital was Study 10 in F Minor, from the 1851 Etudes d’execution transendante, the persistent broken left-hand chord figures were played with pyrotechnical flair.

Following a standing ovation the artist played one encore, Chopin’s C-Sharp Minor Nocturne from Op. 27, and crafted an exultant mid-section climax that dropped back to a charming Mazurka and big-toned octave cadenza. The final notes hung into almost a silent eternity before a burst of thunderous applause.