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Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now it seems to be on almost every...
Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the season’s final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church, as the performers...
Chamber
TRIO NAVARRO'S POPULAR FARE IN SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 08, 2018
Long time Classical Sonoma readers may recall many Trio Navarro concert reviews that lauded their virtuosity and interest in rarely played repertoire. The April 8 concert in Schroeder Hall before 85 chamber music fans featured sterling performances but had a mostly conservative menu of popular trio...
Recital
KENNER'S ALL POLISH RECITAL HAS PADEREWSKI RARITY
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, April 08, 2018
Kevin Kenner’s April 8 recital at Dominican University’s Angelico Hall had been advertised as all-Chopin, but he added a detour into another seminal Polish composer-pianist, Paderewski. Several of Mr. Kenner’s teachers were Poles, he speaks Polish, and he navigated at the piano both composers’ deman...
Symphony
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE VOICE AT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, April 08, 2018
In an April 8 Santa Rosa Symphony concert filled to the brim with instruments--electric violin, vibraphone, marimba, xylophone, glockenspiel, keyboard samplers, harps, piano and myriad drums, gongs and bells, to say nothing of winds, brass and strings--the instrument that came out on top was the hum...
Chamber
VOM FESTIVAL TRIO CHARMS WITH CHAMBER MIX, AND HUMMEL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, March 31, 2018
At the core of the group of Valley of the Moon Music Festival (VOM) musicians is an ensemble of trios and duos, and as a trio March 31 Festival founders cellist Tanya Tomkins and pianist Eric Zivian joined British violinist Monica Huggett for a chamber music concert in the Green Music Center’s Schro...
Choral and Vocal
GOOD FRIDAY REQUIEM FILLS INCARNATION
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 30, 2018
Maurice Duruflé’s short and intense Requiem has been heard in Santa Rosa’s Church of the Incarnation before, but the March 30 Good Friday performance was stripped down in the number of performers, combining Cantiamo Sonoma and the St. Cecilia Choir with musical underpinning from organist Robert Youn...
Symphony
HAMELIN'S HUSKY MOOD IN SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 25, 2018
Convention in piano recitals has the artist coming on stage and playing. Canadian pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin walked on Schroeder Hall’s stage March 25 and didn’t play for six minutes, chatting with the audience. A risk for some artists. Then most programs include a contemporary or rarely play...
Recital
VIRTUOSIC VARIATIONS IN MORGAN'S SCHROEDER ORGAN RECITAL
by Paul Blanchard
Sunday, March 18, 2018
Organist Robert Huw Morgan’s artistry spun through the web of early variation form in a Mar. 18 recital on Schroeder Hall’s wonderful Brombaugh organ. Mr. Morgan, Stanford University’s resident organist, performs a wide range of repertoire, but as he said in comments to the audience, he loves when h...
CHAMBER REVIEW
PianoSonoma - Vino and Vibrato Series / Tuesday, July 26, 2016
Julia Glenn, violin; Mika Sasaki, Michael Shinn, Jessica Chow Shinn, Peter Dugan, piano; Emi Ferguson, flute; Kara Sainz, mezzo-soprano

Violinist Julia Glenn

PIANOSONOMA SERIES OPENS WITH ECHT GERMAN ROMANTICISM

by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, July 26, 2016

PianoSonoma’s second season in SSU’s Schroeder Hall began July 26 with a mixed program under the series appellation “Vino & Vibrato.” The set of student workshops and concerts, headed by Juilliard School pianists Jessica and Michael Shinn, puts artists in residence in close contact with Sonoma County adult musicians for two weeks each summer.

Titled a “Love Triangle” (Clara and Robert Schumann with Brahms), Clara Schumann’s Three Romances for Violin and Piano, Op. 22, had a shaky opening. Violinist Julia Glenn’s intonation wavered and the thematic projection in the soaring melancholy of the Andante was tentative. Clear note taking in the Allegretto was seldom clear, but her best playing came in the final Agitato’s light lyricism, and Ms. Glenn leaned gracefully into some notes with palpable effect.

An 11-minute interlude work from Brahms, his piano transcription for four hands from Robert Schumann’s E-Flat Major Quartet, Op. 47, (Andante only) was played by the Shinns. Ms. Shin was segundo and the arching phrases, lovely counterpoint and poignant sadness of the super-romantic music was vivid and chaste. Mr. Shinn noted to the audience that the work was Brahms’ best love song for Clara, but that gift could also be the Andante from the Op. 60 C Minor Piano Quartet.

Pianist Mika Sasaki played well with forceful rolling chords in the final Romance, and continued admirable pianism with two sets of variations on a Robert Schumann theme from his Op. 99 Bunte Blätter. First came Clara’s Op. 20, and Ms. Sasaki’s tempos were never rushed and she played with a subtle touch, though over pedaling at times made the left-hand line muddy. The slower variations and the concluding arpeggios were lovely.

Brahms’ Op 9 Variations on the same theme is far removed from the composer’s virtuosic Handel Variations, and Ms. Sasaki played 12 of the written 16. Few other composers (Bizet, Rubinstein) at this time were writing formal variations for piano, and the pianist made a good case for the 1854 work with ruminating themes, a boisterous repeated-note variation and a catchy dance variation. The music had a far off feel with the pianist playing strong bass chords before in the last variation slowing down the tempo to elegant effect.

Following intermission mezzo-soprano Kara Sainz joined pianist Peter Dugan in three sets of songs: three from Brahms and two each by Clara and Robert. Clara’s Liebst du um Schonheit and Liebeszauber were performed well but the better known Brahms and Robert Schumann works overshadowed them. The big “Wie Melodien” (Op. 105, No. 1) was verbally introduced by Mr. Duggan, and his clean distinctive piano sound melded well with Ms. Sainz’s supple voice and excellent German diction.

Ms. Sainz’ slow steady voice sounded comely in the well-known “Die Mainacht” (Op. 43, No. 2), but lacked the last bit of warmth in the biggest climaxes of “Meine Leibe ist grun” (My love is Green), Op. 65, No. 5.

The concert’s last offering, the Robert Schumann songs, was a fitting end. Ms. Sainz flattened (presumably by artistic design) some notes in phrases in “Er, der Herrlichste von allen,” from the cycle Frauenliebe und Leben, a seminal work for mezzo. Here Mr. Dugan’s playing at places covered the singer, but was in perfect balance for the operatic “Widmung” from the cycle Myrthen, Op. 25. Some of the raw vocal power and color needed in this song was absent, but perhaps Liszt’s two piano transcriptions of “Widmung” are too much in mind, and defer the beauty of this celebrated song from a salutary mezzo.

Most of the 80 people in the hall rose in a short ovation.