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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...
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.