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Chamber
EXTRAVAGANT FUSION OF STYLES AT CHRIS BOTTI BAND WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Jerry Dibble
Sunday, August 12, 2018
Trumpeter Chris Botti still performs in jazz venues including SF Jazz and The Blue Note, but now appears mostly in cavernous halls or on outdoor stages like the Sonoma State University’s Green Music Center. He brought his unique road show to the packed Weill Hall August 12 in a concert of effusive e...
Chamber
SCHUBERT "MIT SCHLAG" AT VOM FESTIVAL MORNING CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 29, 2018
The spirit of 19th century Vienna was present July 29 on the final day of the Valley of the Moon Music Festival. The Festival in the second half of July glittered with innovative programming and the new, old sound of original instruments played by musicians who love music with historic instruments. ...
Chamber
PASSIONATE BRAHMS-SCHOENBERG MUSIC CLOSES VOM FESTIVAL SUMMER
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 29, 2018
An extraordinary program of chamber music by Brahms and Schoenberg attracted a capacity crowd to the Valley of the Moon Music Festival’s final concert July 29th in Sonoma’s Hanna Center. It opened with a richly expressive reading by Festival Laureate violinist Rachell Wong and pianist Jeffrey LaDeur...
Chamber
PRAGUE AND VIENNA PALACE GEMS HIGHLIGHT VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, July 28, 2018
The remarkable Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival presented a concert called “Kinsky Palace” July 28 on their final Festival weekend in Sonoma’s Hanna Center. Two well-known treasures and one lesser gem were programmed. Starting the afternoon offerings were violinist Monica Huggett and Fest...
Chamber
INNOVATIVE CHAMBER WORKS IN HANNA CENTER CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, July 22, 2018
The Valley of the Moon Music Festival presented a July 22 concert featuring three giants: Haydn, Schubert and Schumann, composers who altered music of their time with creative innovations and artistic vision. In the fourth season the Festival’s theme this year is “Vienna in Transition”, and VOM Fes...
Chamber
VIENNA INSPIRATION FOR VOM FESTIVAL PROGRAM AT HANNA CENTER
by Nicki Bell
Saturday, July 21, 2018
A music-loving audience filled Sonoma’s Hanna Center Auditorium July 21 to begin a record weekend of three concerts, produced by the Valley of the Moon Music Festival. The Festival’s theme this summer is “Venice in Transition – From the Enlightenment to the Dawn of Modernism” Prior to Saturday’s m...
Chamber
VANHAL QUARTET AT VOM FESTIVAL DISCOVERY AT HANNA CENTER
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 15, 2018
A near-capacity crowd of 220 filled the Sonoma Hanna Boys Center Auditorium July 15 for the opening concert of the fourth Valley of the Moon Music Festival. This Festival presents gems of the Classical and early Romantic periods performed on instruments of the composer’s era, which presents a few ch...
Opera
SPARKLING CIMAROSA OPERA HIGHLIGHTS MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kathryn Stewart
Friday, July 13, 2018
The Classical music era was a time of extraordinary innovation. Dominated by composers from the German-speaking countries, the period witnessed the handiwork of masterpieces by two classical giants, Haydn and Mozart. Both composers put forth a tremendous catalog of masterful works and perhaps to our...
Symphony
!PURA VIDA! A SONIC TRIUMPH FOR SO CO PHIL IN THRILLING COSTA RICA TOUR CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Long anticipated events, such as a great sporting game, gourmet feast, holiday trip or a concert, occasionally fall way short of expectations. The results don’t measure to expectations. With the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Costa Rica concert June 19, the performance exceeded any heated or tenuou...
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 Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
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.