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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 SaŽns, 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 Orchestraís new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasserís 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 KAHANEíS BATON
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Jeffrey Kahane, the Santa Rosa Symphonyís 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 (Gershwinís ďAn American in ParisĒ), emotional (Barberís violin concerto) and triumphant (...
Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Villageís monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trioís performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosaís 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 Navarroís late February concert in Sonoma Stateís Schroeder Hall, Northern Californiaís other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican Universityís Angelico Hall. Clearly each hallís 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
Mastercard Performance Series / Friday, February 02, 2018
Nikolaj Znaider, violin; Robert Kulek, piano

N. Znaider and R. Kulek Feb. 2 in Weill Hall (JCM Photo)

ZNAIDER-KULEK DUO CHARMS AND CHALLANGES WEILL AUDIENCE FEB. 2

by Terry McNeill
Friday, February 02, 2018

Weill hall has mounted several exceptional piano recitals, with Garrick Ohlssonís titanic Liszt concert, and of course Lang Langís two insouciant but also compelling performances topping the list since 2013.

But arguably the virtuoso violinists have on balance been more impressive, and thoughts go back to memorable nights from Gil Shahamís six Bach works, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Christian Tetzlaff, Yu-Chien Tsong, David McCarroll, Alexei Kenny, Benjamin Bielman, Caroline Goulding, Vadim Repin, Sarah Chang and Itzhak Perlman, each reviewed at Classical Sonoma. So it was for Nikolaj Znaiderís Feb. 2 recital with the exemplary pianist Robert Kulek.

Mr. Znaider established an immediate rapport with the audience of 250, chatting about the weather, leaning down from the stage to offer a lozenge from his pocket to a coughing fan, and charmingly excusing a woman that fled with hall with a cell phone blaring.

Musical matters began with a beautifully balanced performance of Beethovenís G Major Sonata, Op. 30, No. 3. Itís easy to overplay this charming work, even with the selected brisk opening tempo, but the duo never fell into this error. As throughout the evening Mr. Znaiderís impressive control of pianissimo blended well with the pianist, with the latterís piquant sforzandos and dry arpeggios. Here Mr. Znaider did not show a rich tone, and with minimal vibrato it wasnít needed. The light touch continued through the tempo di menuetto, and in the finale allegro dynamics continued to be narrow, with the effect elegant. Clearly this duo had perfect ensemble.

Prokofievís D Major Sonata (Op. 94) followed, beginning with intonation problems, but the violinist quickly found his footing and focused on the opening moderato with a skittish clarity and a blend of the composerís unique sugary-tart harmonies. The bantamweight ending was lovely. The presto was played presto with quirky high-speed slides and off beat accents, but never went off the tracks. The long diminuendo ending the andantewas perfectly graded and deliciously drawn out.

Al of the composerís characteristics were on display in the finale Ė sarcasm, irony, humor. Mr. Kulekís stressed the dissonances and occasionally covered the violin line. They played a slow ritard before the big lyrical theme that emphasized the underlying sadness of the music. In sum, a vibrant and committed reading of a masterpiece, and for me the concertís highlight.

Franckís great A Major Sonata from 1886 should have been the capstone to the concert, and nearly was. The introductory themes were calm and happy and quite slow, with Mr. Znaider using a wider vibrato and was content to let things flow, with differences in repeated phrases. Mr. Kulekís arpeggiated chords were deftly played. The famous allegro had many felicities with pedal point at the bottom of piano runs and a big ending upward flourish. What was missing were clarity in the right-hand piano runs, some violin notes not attacked cleanly, and most telling a tad lack of intensity in this most vehement movement.

Mr. Znaider introduced the moderato with a story of his five-year old daughter, and played the music (starting in D Minor and ending in F-Sharp Minor) ravishingly, with surprisingly less vibrato and echoes of first-movement themes. Ensemble was tight. The concluding rondo had a judicious tempo that spotlighted the many modulations, and the sprint to the end generated a standing ovation. It was odd that the Franck was played with score, as were the other programmed pieces.

Beginning the second half were four of Shostakovichís Preludes from his Op. 34, transcribed by Dmitri Tsyganov. Hey were fetchingly performed, especially the 2nd (the popular Prelude, with a dry sound); the 3rd (a march with Mr. Kulekís accurate skips); and the 4th (contrasting acerbic and frothy interjections by the violin).

Two encores were offered: Brahms Second Hungarian Dance in a rollicking gypsy rhythm virtuoso romp that brought down the house, and a sultry slow Heifetz transcription with Mr. Znaiderís best schmaltzy double stops.