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Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
BEETHOVEN'S VALENTINE'S DAY GIFT IN RAC SEBASTOPOL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, February 14, 2020
Continuing a season of Redwood Arts Council successes, the Kouzov Duo performed an eclectic Valentine’s Day concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church before an audience of 125. Beethoven’s charming Op. 66 Variations on Mozart’s “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from the opera the Magic Flute was a bouncy ...
LUSH BACH PERFORMANCE IN DENK'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 13, 2020
Memorable artistic interpretations of musical masterpieces are often at extremes, and with the Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (WTC - Book I) that Jeremy Denk played in Weill Hall Feb. 13, the pianist was only sporadically at unique or ebullient musical ends. But his playing wasn’t exactly at opposite...
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.