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Opera
SPARKLING CIMAROSA OPERA HIGHLIGHTS MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kathryn Stewart
Friday, July 13, 2018
The Classical music era was a time of extraordinary innovation. Dominated by composers from the German-speaking countries, the period witnessed the handiwork of masterpieces by two classical giants, Haydn and Mozart. Both composers put forth a tremendous catalog of masterful works and perhaps to our...
Symphony
!PURA VIDA! A SONIC TRIUMPH FOR SO CO PHIL IN THRILLING COSTA RICA TOUR CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Long anticipated events, such as a great sporting game, gourmet feast, holiday trip or a concert, occasionally fall way short of expectations. The results don’t measure to expectations. With the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Costa Rica concert June 19, the performance exceeded any heated or tenuou...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
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 they seem to be on almost ever...
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.