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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...
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 REVIEW
Mendocino Music Festival / Saturday, July 22, 2017
Molly Morkoski, piano

Pianist Molly Morkoski July 22 in Preston Hall

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 Suite, and closed with Chopin’s F Minor Ballade. If the event had been a horse race the audience would have been jumping to their feet with excitation at certain moments and ripping up their betting receipts at others. But that’s how great racehorses are; their unpredictability makes them exciting, but also makes the slightest stumble nearly heartbreaking. And so it was at this concert before a Preston Hall audience of 150.

Ms. Morkoski was slow out of the gate with the C-Sharp Minor Sonata, and rendered a journeyman interpretation without much nuance. The triplets of the first movement sounded a bit plodding, as the artist kept reminding the audience of the beginning of each triplet with a heavy thumb. The second movement improved with good phrasing and moderate pace. The artist had explained to the audience in brief pre performance comments that the piece picked up steam from movement to movement with the third and final movement to be performed at a brisk pace. And so it was with her performance, except that as a consequence it was hard not to find the third movement more than a bit rushed. While in this and the pieces to come Ms. Morkoski demonstrated ample pianistic technique, her musicality at times seemed to suffer as a result. This burst of speed so early in the “race” may have been an unwise expenditure of energy without pianistic result and may have tired her by the concert’s finishing chords.

It was with the Phrygian Gates where Ms. Morkoski’s interpretation shined. It was clear from the start that she had applied her interpretive skills to fashion a performance that showed the grand arc of the 27-minute piece. Despite its constant repetitive notes, the piece is compelling and holds the listener’s rapt attention. The playing here was superb with contrasting dynamics and extended phrasing that few performers are able to project to a pulsating effect. It is also a piece that requires pianistic endurance. The afternoon’s performance could not have been better. It was electrifying and was clear with the Adams, written in 1978, that she had really reached her stride.

After intermission Grieg’s Holberg Suite, Op. 40, was a charming add-on. Ms. Morkoski planned the concert without an intermission and so had not included it, and told the audience that given there was an intermission she wanted to be sure they would come back with the addition of the Grieg piece, written in 1884. No enticement was necessary and the audience was given a special treat. Here Ms. Morkoski seemed to take a breath and pace herself as if on the back race straightaway holding her position, taking time for trills and couplets and careful articulation, even in faster passages. Originally written as a piano piece but popularized as a work for string orchestra, the Suite of five dances offers beautiful melodies combined with signature Grieg harmonies. The piece was actually written to be in Baroque style and Ms. Morkoski’s playing made one feel as if they had traveled back in time to a less rushed and more contemplative era. The sellout audience provided boisterous applause.

The closing Chopin Ballade in F Minor, Op. 52, got off to a false start. After debating whether to play from memory or use a score, the pianist decided to play from memory but soon faltered. She stopped, commented that she was tired, and started the piece over with the score. However, for whatever reason, fatigue or otherwise, the playing of the Chopin was uninspiring. The Fourth Ballade is one of Chopin’s greatest works for piano, not as technically challenging as the 27 Etudes but full of communicative challenges that require a quiet energy that underpins the strong emotional content. Here Ms. Murkowski seemed to simply run out gas as she quietly crossed the musical finish line with nothing more to give.

On another day she might have finished with more security, but there was no doubt that she is a serious artist and impressive in selected repertoire. No encore was offered to the appreciative audience.