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Chamber
YOUNG MUSICIANS SHINE AT PIANO SONOMA CONCERT
by Lee Ormasa
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
The third in a series of four concerts by Piano Sonoma artists in residence, part of the Vino and Vibrato Series, was held August 1 in Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center. Entitled “The Masters,” the program included works by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. Piano Sonoma is a summer artist-in...
Chamber
THRILLING PROGRAM CLOSES VOM CHAMBER FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, July 30, 2017
The finale of the two-week Valley of the Moon Music Festival closed July 30 with “The Age of Bravura” concert at the Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. The musical selections held to this year’s Festival theme “Schumann’s World - His Music and the Music He Loved.“ This summer Festival features chamber mus...
Chamber
PERIOD INSTRUMENTAL SOUND AT PENULTIMATE VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 30, 2017
In the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival’s penultimate concert July 30 the perennial issue of period and modern instruments was apparent. But only in the concluding Mendelssohn Trio, as the performances in the two first half works easily avoided instrumental comparisons. Clara Schumann’s t...
Chamber
ECLECTIC REPERTOIRE IN FETCHING VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 22, 2017
One of the purposes of summer music festivals is to present unfamiliar music in an attractive and often small audience setting. The Valley of the Moon Music Festival delightfully met these requirements July 22 and 23 with two concerts in the small hall at Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. Classical Sono...
Recital
ADAMS' PHRYGIAN GATES HIGHLIGHTS MORKOSKI FESTIVAL PERFORMANCE
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Attendees at the Molly Morkoski Mendocino Music Festival recital July 22 were in for a treat, both pianistically and if they happened to buy a tasty cookie during intermission. The program included Beethoven’s Op. 27 Moonlight Sonata, Adams’ Phrygian Gates, a surprise add-on of Grieg’s Holberg Suit...
Symphony
SOARING VERDI REQUIEM CLOSES 31ST MENDOCINO FESTIVAL
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
We speak frequently about how there is nothing like the experience of a live performance. Seldom was this truer than at the July 22 closing performance of the two-week Mendocino Music Festival. The Festival Orchestra, conducted by of Allan Pollack, joined with the Festival Chorus in a moving renderi...
Recital
ORGAN REGISTRATION MASTERY HEARD IN WALHAIN'S RECITAL
by Robert Young
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
A group of 65 lucky attendees July 18 had the pleasure of hearing Etienne Walhain’s recital at the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa. Mr. Walhain is organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Tournai, Belgium, and played to a varied program Bach, Franck, and Reger. He used the tonal resource...
Opera
DONIZETTI'S DON PASQUALE HAS LYRICAL CHARM IN MENDOCINO FESTIVAL PRODUCTION
by Elly Lichenstein
Friday, July 14, 2017
Mendocino Music Festival's production of Donizetti's beloved opera buffa Don Pasquale - a one-night affair July 15 that was presented in an enormous tent on a greensward overlooking the Pacific Ocean - delighted an audience of more than 600 while doing some real justice to this frothy gem of commedi...
Recital
NOVACEK'S 2ND HALF TRIFECTA SCORES AT MENDO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 13, 2017
Modern classical piano recitals are in two parts, with longer and perhaps more profound music proceeding perhaps shorter and usually stimulating lighter fare. In John Novacek’s July 13 Mendocino Music Festival recital the best playing came unexpectedly in the eight abbreviated works comprising the ...
Recital
STYLUS AND PLAYING FANTASTICUS IN YOUNG'S ORGAN RECITAL
by Paul Blanchard
Sunday, June 25, 2017
Organist Robert Young gave a wonderful tour through the stylus fantasticus (fantastic style) organ literature June 25 playing a recital on the Casavant organ at Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa. Mr. Young recently became the organist at the Church and previously served for 20 years as Music D...
RECITAL REVIEW
Mastercard Performance Series / Friday, April 21, 2017
Yefim Bronfman, piano

Pianist Yefim Bronfman in Weill April 21

SCHUMANN AND BARTOK HIGHLIGHT BRONFMAN RECITAL IN WEILL

by Lee Ormasa
Friday, April 21, 2017

Those people once addicted to the “Angry Birds” game application likely suffered an auditory flashback during the opening measures of the allegro from Bartok’s Suite, Op. 14, the opening work in Yefim Bronfman’s April 21 recital at Weill Hall. The repetitive opening figures of the Bartok were evocative of the game app’s hypnotic music loop. The Suite, originally conceived by Bartok as a five movement piece, was shortened by the composer to four movements, as Bartok had written an andante which was dropped and later published separately.

Bartok described how he was attempting to move away from the post-Romantic style in writing this piece:

"It is based entirely on original themes of my own invention. When this work was composed I had in mind the refining of piano technique, the changing of piano technique, into a more transparent style. A style more of bone and muscle opposing the heavy chordal style of the late, latter romantic period, that is, unessential ornaments like broken chords and other figures are omitted and it is more a simpler style."

Mr. Bronfman, no stranger to Bartok, having recorded all three of the Bartok piano concerti, showed his command of this early 20th Century piece. The arc of the composition was revealed as a carefully articulated allegro that provided the foundation upon which the rest of the performance was built. With each passing movement the percussive qualities of the piano were increasingly highlighted. That said, there was no loss of lyrical expressiveness in the process - a difficult balance that Mr. Bronfman achieved to the delight of the audience. It is likely some in attendance were encouraged to further explore Bartok’s demanding piano music as a result.

Schumann’s B-Flat Major Humoreske, Op. 20” followed the Bartok with its lyrical and provocative contrasting romantic statements. About it the composer wrote to the then Clara Wieck, who he would later marry:

"All week I’ve been sitting at the piano and composing and writing and laughing and crying, all at the same time. You will find this beautifully illustrated in my Opus 20, the great Humoreske."

There is much to discover in the “Humoreske” and Mr. Bronfman revealed many nuances and surprises other pianists might have overlooked. He kept breaks between sections to an absolute minimum, perhaps in an effort to provide a connectedness or continuity not otherwise reflected in the content of the score. This approach was frustrated at one juncture by a Weill Hall audience predilection to frequently applaud between movements that the artist simply ignored and played through. Unfortunately, Mr. Bronfman’s stage composure was again tested when during the same piece someone chose to exit the Hall with loud stomping across the wooden floor. Other than a quick turn of his head to see what was making the racket the playing was uninterrupted. Luckily, neither of these distractions adversely impacted what must be described as a transcendent reading of this challenging virtuoso work.

After Intermission, the small Weill Hall audience was treated to Debussy’s impressionistic “Suite Bergamasque” from 1905, which includes the popular “Clare de Lune” (Moonlight) third movement. The Suite was inspired by the French poet Paul Verlaine’s poem of the same name. If there was a tense moment in the program, this was it. In the busier sections there were no pianistic problems to be solved, as Mr. Bronfman wove a dreamy and enveloping sound. However, in the Suite’s quieter sections it was like watching a circus high wire act with butterflies in one’s stomach. The playing in those parts seemed overly tentative as Mr. Bronfman sought ever so carefully to apply just the correct amount of pressure to the piano keys to produce the desired sonic result. It was successful and the lovely moments quietly passed.

The program concluded with Stravinsky’s adaptation for piano of pieces from his 1921 Petrouchka ballet: “Three Movements from Petrouchka”. The ballet’s characters are marionettes with the Petrouchka character being similar to Punch of the “Punch and Judy” fame. Written for pianist Arthur Rubinstein, with Stravinsky admitting the complex composition exceeded his own skills as a pianist, there are no shortage of pianistic challenges to the piece where a pianist’s technical skills are battlefield tested. At certain points that otherwise might be cacophonous moments, an overlying “shimmering” effect was magically produced by the pianist. Mr. Bronfman not only rose to the challenge but added robustness to the performance that caused the audience to jump to their feet in appreciation as they acknowledged his formidable artistry.

Schumann’s C Minor Arabeske, Opus 18, a favorite Horowitz encore selection, was a beautifully played encore here, and a delight to an enthusiastic audience.