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Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
RECITAL REVIEW
Mill Valley Chamber Music Society / Sunday, March 12, 2017
Sara Daneshpour, piano

Pianist Sara Danespour

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-minute Boulez “Incises,” written the 1990s. Clearly it wasn’t going to be a conventional recital played routinely or timidly. Recitals don’t begin with Boulez.

“Incises” is a fast percussive piece with fistfuls of notes in both hands, and the artist explored all the piano’s registers with controlled strength. Her pedaling was especially effective in the parts of large washes of sound, alternating with skittish and ferocious sforzandos. The interpretation was unique with strumming effects overlapping phrases and the use of the sostenuto pedal for many measures produced a layered sound. The fermata at the end was long and sealed a potent reading of a ferocious work that was in some ways took artistic courage to program.

Muscular pianism continued with Ravel’s popular Gaspard de La Nuit, but surprisingly the opening Ondine began slowly with inner voices coming to the fore and the modulations underscored. But true to form Ms. Daneshpour deftly ratcheted up the temperature with lyrical sections that were also balanced and never forced. In Le Gibet the slow march was played at just the right tempo to hear the distant bell effects in the bass.

The artist had a command of pianistic sonority that changed from the controlled mezzo piano of the middle movement into virtuoso bravura in the fearsome concluding Scarbo. The rolled bass octaves gave a thunderous impact. Clarity is tough to achieve in this movement that is full of fast repeated notes and powerful climaxes, and at times Ms. Daneshpour’s treatment the diabolical nature of the music was on the edged of too much speed. However, the music can accept such sweep and power, and the audience rose for an ovation following the final eerie right hand notes that were played quietly and without any ritard.

Chopin’s F-Sharp Barcarolle began the second half and the artist took a measured approach with the Italianate melody and arabesque phrase shapes. It was a thorough and rhythmic steady reading that featured minimal rubatos and warm but never splendid tone color. Piano acoustics in the widespread Mount Tamalpais Methodist Church don’t favor rich legato playing and here some of the exquisite undulating theme was not lucid. This was unimportant in the Ravel and the to-come Prokofiev, but in Chopin’s Barcarolle delicate legato is critical.

Returning to the day’s big musical conceptions Ms. Daneshpour closed the recital with a pungent performance of Prokofiev’s Eighth Sonata, Op. 84. In the opening andante dolce the playing was less “dolce” than orchestral, and the artists shaped big contrasts and piquant inner voice notes leading to loud climaxes and an interplay of vocal lines at the end.

The second movement intermezzo was played with soft lyricism that belies the banal theme the composer magically develops. The final Vivace became in Ms. Daneshpour’s hands a lengthy rondo that was played mostly clamorously and with an insistent dissonant bass line. It was a bright and often-raw reading that sporadically had spirited lyricism. Though not as popular as the composer’s “sister” Seventh Sonata in the same B Flat key, the Eighth (finished in 1944) is the greater work, and Ms. Daneshpour’s formidable keyboard artistry and ability to dominate Prokofiev’s percussive and poetic score produced a compelling and convincing musical experience.

There was no encore.