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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 ...
Symphony
CONDUCTOR PLAYOFFS BEGIN IN SANTA ROSA
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 08, 2017
The Santa Rosa Symphony is calling 2017-18 “a choice season” because the next few months offer the audience and the symphony’s board of directors a chance to choose a new conductor from a pool of five candidates. Each candidate will lead a three-concert weekend set this fall and winter, with a final...
Recital
PIANISTIC COMMAND IN SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, October 08, 2017
Nikolay Khozyainov’s Oct. 8 debut at the Green Music Center’s Schroeder Hall was one of those rare moments in a young artist’s career when a performance approaches perfection. From the opening notes of Beethoven’s A-Flat Major Sonata (Op. 110) through a delightful recital ending transcription, the ...
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.