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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...
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
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...
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
DEDIK RECITAL MARCH 12 IN SPRING LAKE VILLAGE SERIES
by Terry McNeill
Monday, March 12, 2018
Pianist Anastasia Dedik has been an occasional North Coast visitor, playing with her Trio in Ukiah, and in recitals in Sonoma and with the Spring Lake Village series. She returned March 12 to Spring Lake (a retirement community, with Impresario Robert Hayden) in an abbreviated recital before a pack...
Recital
CHOPIN BALLADES FEATURED IN CONCERTS GRAND RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 24, 2018
Pianist Nancy Lee Harper made an elegant North Coast debut Feb. 24 in the Concerts Grand House Recitals series in a private Santa Rosa home. Ms. Harper, for decades a performer and teacher in Portugal, has recently relocated to Northern California, played an all-Chopin recital that was comprehensiv...
Recital
ROMANTIC MUSIC AND AMBIANCE AT SEB ARTS RECITAL
by Nicki Bell
Sunday, February 18, 2018
Sebastopol had is own musical salon Feb. 18 with visits to Paris of the 1830s, and side trips to Wales and Germany. Pianist Robyn Carmichael presented a concert of favorite romantic masters and their muses, loves and inspirations, with music of Chopin, Liszt Mendelssohn and Schumann. This was no c...
Recital
HAUNTING RACHMANINOFF WORKS IN HU'S MAO RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 08, 2018
Ching-Yun Hu made a return Music at Oakmont appearance Feb. 8 in Berger Auditorium, reprising a recital she made in the same hall four years ago. Many of the recital’s trappings were the same, but the music Ms. Hu chose to play was decidedly different. All afternoon the pianist was in an aggressiv...
Recital
ZNAIDER-KULEK DUO CHARMS AND CHALLANGES WEILL AUDIENCE FEB. 2
by Terry McNeill
Friday, February 02, 2018
Weill hall has mounted several exceptional piano recitals, with Garrick Ohlsson’s titanic Liszt concert, and of course Lang Lang’s two insouciant but also compelling performances topping the list since 2013. But arguably the virtuoso violinists have on balance been more impressive, and thoughts g...
Recital
HOME RECITAL BACH COMPLETES HOLIDAY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 30, 2017
The just closing 2017 year was a calamity for many, but locally in music there were joys galore, and it was fitting Dec. 30 have the balm of two Bach’s violin sonatas in a private Guerneville home recital hosted by the eminent musician Sonia Tubridy. Violinist Richard Heinberg joined Ms. Tubridy in...
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.