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Symphony
MENDELSSOHN'S SCOTTISH SAVES THE EVENING IN SRS WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Monday, February 11, 2019
The audience entering Weill Hall for Santa Rosa Symphony concerts Feb. 9-11 were presented with a program that on first glance appeared a curious patchwork Ė a great symphony mixed with a seldom heard concerto and two disparate overtures, and a guest conductor unknown locally. Monday nightís concer...
Recital
INTRIGUING BELL-HAYWOOD RECITAL BEFORE FULL HOUSE IN WEILL HALL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, February 08, 2019
A big portion of the capacity audience in Weill Hall February 8th came to hear violinist Joshua Bellís virtuosity, and were treated as well to splendid playing from Sam Haywood, Mr. Bellís regular pianist since 2010. The duo performed three engaging sonatas, highlighted by Mr. Bellís sterling techn...
Symphony
TRIPLE PLAY UKIAH SYMPHONY CONCERT AND TCHAIKOVSKY SERENADE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Over the years the Ukiah Symphonyís concerts have been in the Classical Sonoma Calendar sections, but rarely has this Orchestra, now in its 39th season, had a full winter season concert review. The provocative Jan. 27 program in Mendocino Collegeís Center Theater seemed a good reason to reacquaint ...
Symphony
JACKSON THEATER WELCOMES A NEW RESIDENT ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Moving to a permanent new performance venue can be a perilous undertaking for an orchestra, with different acoustics, the loyal audience finding the new spot and infrastructure challenges of lighting and lobby and backstage operations. In their first concert Jan. 26 in Windsorís Jackson Theater the...
Symphony
ECLECTIC PASSIONATE PROGRAMMING AT MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 26, 2019
The Marin Symphonyís second Masterworks concert of the 2018-19 season featured works by John Adams, Sibelius and Brahms, a masterful assembly. In a spoken introduction before the programís first half, conductor Alasdair Neale primed the audience for the ďterra incognitaĒ of Adamsí The Chairman Dance...
Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital itís easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handelís seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if itís the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcellís Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the schoolís Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by 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
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 Beethovenís Op. 27 Moonlight Sonata, Adamsí Phrygian Gates, a surprise add-on of Griegís Holberg Suite, and closed with Chopinís 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 thatís 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 ďraceĒ may have been an unwise expenditure of energy without pianistic result and may have tired her by the concertís finishing chords.

It was with the Phrygian Gates where Ms. Morkoskiís 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 listenerís 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 afternoonís 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 Griegís 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. Morkoskiís 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 Chopinís 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.