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Chamber
VANHAL QUARTET AT VOM FESTIVAL DISCOVERY AT HANNA CENTER
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 15, 2018
A near-capacity crowd of 220 filled the Sonoma Hanna Boys Center Auditorium July 15 for the opening concert of the fourth Valley of the Moon Music Festival. This Festival presents gems of the Classical and early Romantic periods performed on instruments of the composer’s era, which presents a few ch...
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 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
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.