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Recital
SLAM BANG SONORITY IN HAOCHEN ZHANG'S SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 19, 2017
Piano Competition winners are in ample supply, and it’s often a hit and miss proposition as to their sterling interpretative qualities. However, the quadrennial Van Cliburn Competition in Ft. Worth has continually produced top-level artists, and the 2009 winner Haochen Zhang proved a formidable per...
Symphony
FOREIGN AFFAIRS CHARACTERS OF THE BAROQUE
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, known as Akamus, played a Weill Hall concert March 12 in a program called "Foreign Affairs -Characters of the Baroque.” The ensemble, that began in 1984, has 15 musicians led by concert master Bernhard Forck. Attired in elegant black with red accents, ranging from tie...
Recital
MUSCULAR PIANISM DOMINATES MILL VALLEY CHAMBER SOCIETY RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Piano recitals since the beginning of the genre open with finger pieces - Scarlatti or Soler Sonatas, Bach, a Mendelssohn Prelude and Fugue or perhaps Mozart or Haydn. Sarah Daneshpour’s March 12 opening work at the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society series abruptly avoided the norm with the 10-minut...
Recital
NOVEL HAYDN AND SCHUMANN IN YARDEN'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, March 09, 2017
Israeli pianist Einav Yarden has been a frequent Sonoma County visitor, playing private recitals for Spring Lake Village and Concerts Grand, and twice performing for Music at Oakmont. The Berlin-based artist returned to Oakmont’s Berger Auditorium March 9 with a program that was neither for connois...
Chamber
CONSUMMATE ENSEMBLE FROM THE MIRÓ IN WEILL
by Sonia Tubridy and Nicki Bell
Sunday, March 05, 2017
A March 5 Weill hall audience of 350 leaned in to share an intimate musical space and to hear the Miró String Quartet’s sterling concert. Starting with Haydn's Op. 20, No. 4, the four musicians seemed to want listeners to be enveloped in their music. The Miró plays with the feat of being four dist...
Recital
BRILLIANT VIOLIN AND PIANO ARTISTRY CHARMS SCHROEDER HALL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 26, 2017
A tiny Schroeder Hall audience heard a flawless recital Feb. 26 by Yu-Chien Tseng, arguably the best recent local violin recital since Gil Shaham’s transversal of the complete Bach Suites in Weill and Frank Almond’s Oakmont recital in 2015. Muscular playing was the afternoon’s norm, and with pianis...
Chamber
MUSIC AND ART MELD IN ZUCKERMAN TRIO CONCERT
by Nicki Bell
Friday, February 24, 2017
A Feb. 24 Weill Hall concert by the Pinchas Zuckerman Trio juxtaposed formidable music making with palpable associations about visual art. Brahms’ C Minor "Sonatensatz” (Scherzo) is a short youthful work for violin and piano, and was an opening call to action. Lively and vigorous playing alternated...
Chamber
THREE BEETHOVEN TRIOS BEGUILE AUDIENCE IN FEB. 19 WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Chamber music concerts featuring one composer can be tricky, but the Han/Setzer/Finckel trio made a Feb. 19 Weill Hall audience of 500 hear and to a degree see the boundless creativity of Beethoven. The G Major Trio, Op. 1, No. 2, opened the afternoon’s Beethoven odyssey and one wonders why it is t...
Chamber
AUTHORITATIVE BARTOK HIGHLIGHTS TETZLAFF VIOLIN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 18, 2017
Christian Tetzlaff’s Feb. 18 violin recital rolled along with lively and fresh readings of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert when the specter of Bartok’s granitic Second Sonata intervened. The sonic shock to the audience of 250 in Weill was palpable. Composed in 1923 the 20-minute two-movement work i...
Symphony
WHAT SOUND DO STAR-CROSSED LOVERS MAKE?
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 12, 2017
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, so the Santa Rosa Symphony feted the occasion by telling and retelling the story of Romeo and Juliet, a tale ever the more poignant during our era of stark divisions. The first telling was from Berlioz; the second from Prokofiev. In between was Brahms’ monu...
RECITAL REVIEW
Mendocino Music Festival / Saturday, July 16, 2016
Christopher Atzinger, piano

Pianist Christopher Atzinger

BALANCED VIRTUOSITY IN ATZINGER MMF RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 16, 2016

Pianist Christopher Atzinger’s Mendocino Music Festival recital July 16 in the small Preston Hall looked formidable on paper larded with what might be said to be “non festival, non summer” music.

There were no light Gershwin or Schubert dance works, and for some the six pieces from Brahms’ Op. 118 are winter compositions that need ample cold, rain and fog. However, the Minnesota-based pianist paid no attention to this pedantry and played an echt 118, with the opening Intermezzo full of sweep and drama, followed by the subtle rhythms of the Intermezzo in A. A highlight was the E-Flat final Intermezzo where he captured the mournful mystery of the work but his formidible pedal technique occasionally blurred the surging left hand line. A spot in the sun.

The center of the afternoon’s program was the last work, Barber’s massive Sonata (Op. 26) from 1949. The performance clocked in at just over 20 minutes, slower than the seminal Browning recording and much slower than the pyrotechnical Horowitz version. But the piece needs the “air” that Mr. Atzinger provided to allow the lyricism to penetrate the many Fortissimo sections, especially in the opening Allegro. Adopting a furious pace in the skittish Vivace Mr. Atzinger easily moved into a ravishing reading of the Adagio, playing often the bell-like bass notes in pedal point and with a natural rise and fall of phrase.

In a period of pause he seemed to gird himself to do battle with the final movement’s dissonant and complex fugue, and he conquered it. Clarity of voices is critical here, not easy to do with the volcanic bass chords, but all went to a thrilling and thunderous conclusion. The interpretation and virtuosity in the Barber were among the best I have ever heard.

The nearly full Preston audience responded with an ovation, and Mr. Atzinger played one encore, a new-age bagatelle where inane up and down progressions seemed fatuous after the magisterial Barber.

This one lapse in taste never pervaded the recital’s other performances of Mozart’s B Flat Sonata (K. 570) and Chopin’s F Minor Fantaisie, Op. 49. The Mozart was especially good with judicious tempos and a warm tone from the mellow house piano. Mr. Atzinger played three cultivated ritards in the opening Allegro that demonstrated that he was not bound to a strict classical interpretation, and the following Adagio his control of gradations of sound and several novel “turn” figurations were superb. The Allegretto featured contrapuntal lines and spicy accented dissonances, understated but always telling.

The Chopin Fantaisie received a performance heavy on vocal statements, as the best Chopin always should. The famous heroic second theme was played with ardor and care, and the march sections at a fast clip. Changing gears, Mr. Atzinger played the Choral part with an unusual differentiation of voices, the main theme’s repeat quite fast and in a romantic gesture held the damper pedal lovingly before the three last phrases.

Leading to intermission was a Toccata from Canadian composer Pierre Jalbert, composed in 2001 and sounding like a required piano competition piece. But it was no less interesting for that, and though clamorous at times it had whiffs of the Ligeti Etudes. Mr. Atzinger’s command of left-hand block chords mixed with swirls of ringing right-hand notes was intoxicating.