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Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
Symphony
PEACE AND LOVE FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 04, 2018
Before the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 4 performance of Leonard Bernstein’s “Symphonic Dances from West Side Story,” Symphony CEO Alan Silow took a moment to acknowledge the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack and to observe that music offers a more peaceful and loving view of the world. Mr. ...
Chamber
ATOS TRIO IN MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 04, 2018
When the ATOS Piano Trio planned their all-Russian touring program at their Berlin home base, it had a strong elegiac, even tragic theme that surely resonated with their Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience Nov. 4 in Mill Valley. Comprised of Annette von Hehn, violin; Thomas Hoppe, piano; and...
Chamber
ATOS TRIO IN OCCIDENTAL CHAMBER CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 03, 2018
When the Berlin-based ATOS Piano Trio entered the cramped Occidental Performing Arts stage Nov. 3, the audience of 100 anticipated familiar works in the announced all-Russian program. What they got was a selection of rarely-plays trios, with a gamut of emotions. Then one-movement Rachmaninoff G Mi...
Symphony
MIGHTY SHOSTAKOVICH 10TH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 28, 2018
Just two works were on the opening program of the Marin Symphony’s 67th season Oct. 28, Tchaikovsky’s iconic D Major Violin Concerto, and Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony. Before a full house in the Marin Center Auditorium conductor Alasdair Neale set a judicious opening tempo in the brief orchestra i...
Symphony
VIVALDI FOR ALL SEASONS IN WEILL BAROQUE CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, October 27, 2018
The Venice Baroque Orchestra, a dozen superb musicians that include strings, harpsichord and recorder, played an uplifting concert Oct. 27 of mostly Vivaldi sinfonias and concertos. The Weill Hall audience of 600 had rapt attention throughout, and the playing was of the highest musical level. This r...
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
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.