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Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s Sonoma Overt...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
Chamber
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, perfor...
Symphony
AMERICAN CLASSICS SPARKLE UNDER KAHANE’S BATON
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Jeffrey Kahane, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s former conductor, returned to the Weill Hall podium on Saturday night, and the results were expectedly wonderful. The concert of American classics was by turns playful (Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”), emotional (Barber’s violin concerto) and triumphant (...
Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
RECITAL REVIEW
Green Music Center / Sunday, October 29, 2017
Alexi Kenney, violin; Renana Gutman, piano

Alexi Kenney and Renana Gutman Oct. 29

RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017

Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne Sophie Mutter and Lambert Orkis.

Alexi Kenney may change the all this, as he played a scintillating performance of the 1917 work in his Schroeder debut recital Oct. 29 with pianist Renana Gutman. Concluding the concert with a big Sonata that has had little popularity was perhaps chancy, but the performance the duo delivered had the requisite big sonorities and committed drive. Throughout the pianist needs a big left hand, and Ms. Gutman’s power was ample.

In three movements, the work opened with a plangent and dramatic moderato that had somber Romanticism and deft phrasing. Mr. Kenny’s formidable technique was never an issue, though several attacks weren’t precise. Ms. Gutman was an equal partner, never covering the violin line. The andante espressivo was played more aggressively than I have heard, but never lacked beauty and telling pedal point touches in the piano. The ascending phrase up to five big chords near the end was infatuating, and garnered the mystery of the simple theme that opens and closes the movement.

Things went well in the finale (passacaglia) with Ms. Gutman’s forceful playing nearly stealing the show from the violinist. As the pace increased piano scale playing became blurred, but the momentum easily carried through the quiet middle section (rose between thorns?) and a slight wavering of violin pitch.
Mr. Gutman’s accelerated octaves before the coda were thunderous, as was the final tremolo b natural chord. A monumental reading. Loud applause followed but no encore.

Mr. Kenney began the concert with a performance of Bach’s E Major Partita (BWV 1006), with small end-of-phrase retards in the preludio that I enjoyed, but surely bothering listeners craving Baroque authenticity. The tempo was brisk but suited the music, and his short trills and double stops were elegant. In the first menuet the artist intentionally blurred the sound for effect, and in the second he never dug deep into the strings, looking for a light sound with a light bow arm. In the concluding gigue he did dig deep, with more lower register sound, but the playing was not slow, though in places it sounded slow with every repeat taken.

Schubert’s wonderful and popular C Major Fantasy (D. 934) finished the first half. Here Ms. Gutman was unable to capture the “sound from no sound” beginning though she quickly found her footing and some of her best playing in the concert. However, Mr. Kenney perfectly gauged the long opening with zero volume moving to triple piano and upwards to the beginning of bits of dance (Hungarian? Czech?) and brooding drama. The opening theme in pizzicato was perfectly sculpted, as was the return of this now subtle march like theme that came following chaste rhythmic phrases and a histrionic climax.

A virtuosic surprise was Mr. Kenney’s traversal of the demanding solo of Esa-Pekka Solonen’s Lachen Verlernt. Much of the nine-minute score is in the high register, and here Mr. Kenney’s intonation was faultless and his slow descending dissonant phrases riveting. What could pass as a series of advanced violin studies was in his hands a tour de force of sonic glamour and where the brilliant effects were never tedious or unmusical. Especially convincing were the little growls and slides in the lower register. There are subtle references to the Paganini Caprices in this 2002 work, and the instrumental prowess demanded by the composer seeming no less than the Italian virtuoso of the 19th Century.

Ms. Gutman and Mr. Kenney also performed Crumb’s Four Nocturnes (Night Music II), written in the early 1960s, and requiring the pianist to strum, mute and delicately bang on the instrument’s strings. An audience member had the score in hand, a calligraphy marvel that could be of equal interest to the performed music.

Mr. Kenney played from score all through the concert, using an electronic tablet placed on the music stand, though he only sporadically looked at it.