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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
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
Recital
PIANISTIC COMMAND IN SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, October 08, 2017
Nikolay Khozyainov’s Oct. 8 debut at the Green Music Center’s Schroeder Hall was one of those rare moments in a young artist’s career when a performance approaches perfection. From the opening notes of Beethoven’s A-Flat Major Sonata (Op. 110) through a delightful recital ending transcription, the ...
Recital
ELEGANT PIANISM IN WATER MUSIC CHARMS HOUSE RECITAL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 03, 2017
A standard component of house concerts often involve listeners hearing the music but also smelling the lasagna and seeing the champagne in the adjacent kitchen. But it was not the case Sept. 3 at Sandra Shen’s Concerts Grand House Recital performance, as her riveting piano playing enthralled the sm...
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...
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...
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.