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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...
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 County’s 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 Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s 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. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
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.