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Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosaís Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San Josť, Costa Ricaís capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
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 Countyís 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...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hallís residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLERíS FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the universityís stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the universityís Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. SaŽnsí majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec lí...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago ďGolden EraĒ of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didnít play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuberís work to the publicís attention, and now they seem to be on almost ever...
Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the seasonís final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopolís Community Church, as the performers...
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.