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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 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...
Chamber
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the ...
RECITAL REVIEW
Mastercard Performance Series / Saturday, April 23, 2016
Midori, violin; Ozgür Aysin, piano

Violinist Midori

EERIE SCHUBERT AND SOPORIFIC BRAHMS IN MIDORI RECITAL IN WEILL

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 23, 2016

California has long been a big part of Midori Goto’s career, and she now teaches and tours from the USC campus in Los Angeles. After never performing in Sonoma County, the violinist’s area debut April 23 in Weill was a moderate success before an audience of 800 that included a large sprinkling of string players and local musicians.

The centerpiece of the physically diminutive virtuoso’s program were the Schubert C Major Fantasie (D. 934) and the great first Brahms Sonata in G Major, Op. 78. With pianist Özgür Aydin Midori made the strongest impact with the Fantasie, a work in seven connected sections with brooding drama and touches of Hungarian motifs. The opening bars were played with the requisite mystery, eerie sound from silence, and the 25-minute work from 1827 unfolded in a true duet, the piano and violin parts intermingling with grace and at times operatic phrasing. It was chaste lyricism.

It was an underplayed and controlled reading, poetic and restful even in the fast passages. The balances were good and Midori’s spicatto bow technique was light and even. This is a connoisseur’s piece, and was played as such. The violinist’s tremolos echoed Mr. Aydin’s sparkling up and down scales.

As with all the evening’s pieces Midori had a score at hand (save for the final two Tchaikovsky works) but seldom looked at it, and intonation throughout was impeccable.

In the Brahms that began the second half, the performance was at a high level but way less exalted than the Schubert. The violinist’s interpretation of this potent Sonata, occasionally transposed for the viola or cello, was one of restraint rather than muscle, especially in the coda of the first vivace movement. As in the first theme of the composer’s early B Major trio, this luxuriant coda should give the listener a little chill on the back of the neck, and here the playing lacked passion, projection and punch. It sang but never soared. Mr. Aydin was dutiful and clearly was poised to never overplay or be interesting, making the magisterial Brahms themes into salonstücke rather than ardor, which is what the violinist presumably wanted in a pianist. Cold and calculating, never captivating. Here Midori had a thin, silvery tone but no Brahmsian red blood.

All through this glorious Sonata slow tempos and small-scaled playing prevailed, the tradeoff of careful and certainly exquisite bow and fingerboard control trumping projection and excitement. If petite and soothing Brahms is of interest, this performance was a classic. If riveting and ravishing Brahms was desired, listeners in Weill Saturday night needed to look elsewhere.

The recital began with Bach’s E Major Violin Sonata, BVW 1016, with slow-tempos and careful shaping of phrases with the emphasis on delicacy. The music seemed to glide by without much impact, but there were many lovely parts including soft double stops, subtle trills and a relaxed and ultimately convincing approach. The pianist never covered the soloist, but strangely I found myself wishing for the harpsichord rather than a modern, heavy legato piano part. That observation occurs rarely in music criticism.

The recital ended with two Tchaikovsky waltzes, the Valse Sentimentale (Op. 51) and the Valse Scherzo (Op. 34). Each was played with exceptional attention to nuance and probity, but again (especially in the Scherzo) with minimal sonic projection and only a modicum of excitement. Portamento in these romantic pieces is alas long out of fashion.

A standing ovation ensued, and one encore was forthcoming, a richly hued slow movement from Grieg. It was a highlight of the recital and the cynosure of Midori’s fame: perfectly fashioned violin phrasing and an infinite command of rarefied and individual bow technique.