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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...
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.