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Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
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...
RECITAL REVIEW

Nikolay Khozyainov Jan. 13 in Mill Valley (A. Wasserman photo)

KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL

by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019

In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and gratified.

His program began tenderly with the opening bars of Chopin’s F Major Ballade No. 2, Op. 38, contrasting gentle passages with thunderous outbursts to evoke manifold emotions. Then he interpreted Chopin’s poetic B Major Nocturne Op. 62, No. 1 as a meditative rumination flooded with nostalgia, and performed with lovely touches of rubato.

Mr. Khozyainov then launched into Stravinsky’s Three Movements from the 1921 ballet “Petrushka”: Russian Dance, In Petrushka’s Cell, and The Shrovetide Fair. The original orchestral version of Petruhska was composed in 1911 for Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russe, but in 1914 a transcription for piano, four hands, was arranged by Stravinsky and others, and eight years later the composer created a three-movement solo version. In a stunning performance the artist achieved the sound and coloration of a full orchestra. His ability to bring clarity to every voice while making a blend of all the voices was breathtaking.

Stravinsky’s Danse Sacrale from the ballet The Rite of Spring followed, and the impact was sharply contrasted from the Petrushka performance. While well performed, the section (a maiden’s sacrificial dance to the death) features clashing, disturbing dissonances that sounded muddied and chaotic, as surely they do in the orchestral version. It is meant to be played in context of the complete ballet, and only then do its dissonances make full sense.

After intermission Mr. Khozyainov opened the second half with a verbal introduction to Sonatina Facile by the German composer Jörg Widmann (b. 1973). The pianist said the Sonatina “brings the past and present together to create the future,” and so it was with this spritely and surprising composition in three movements (allegro, andante, rondo). Each movement begins with a transposition of opening bars from Mozart’s C Major Sonata, K. 545. Rich in unexpected sonorities and pulsating rhythms, the Sonatina seems at first like a mash-up, as it’s part homage, part exploration of the new. The composer slides in tastes of a Bach fugue, a Chopin figuration, and tidbits from other composers as he explores new tonalities and compelling rhythms.

Beethoven’s “Appassionata” Sonata, No. 23 in F Minor, Op. 57, concluded the recital. Mr. Khozyainov’s beautiful performance was rich in feeling, balance, tempo and clear inner voices. As throughout, his pedaling achieved unusual clarity and balance of voices. One of the pianist’s great strengths is pulse – the quality of accentuating rhythms. His playing in the first and third movements was thrilling. In the early measures of the andante con moto variations with its chordal exchanges between hands, he brought out the left hand motive, explaining in a remark after the concert that the cello voice is meant to be emphasized. This served to make those opening passages darker emotionally while not overshadowing the lovely soprano lines.

In the end the audience didn’t want to let Mr. Khozyainov go, and the standing ovation went on so long that after three bows he returned to the piano and played Liszt’s Grand Galop Chromatique, a dazzling tour-de-force. Still, the ovation continued, and he returned to play Satie’s Gymnopedie No. 1 with elegant sensitivity. Even that was not enough. The final encore was Busoni’s Sonatina No. 6, Fantasy on Themes from Bizet’s Opera “Carmen,” with changes made by the pianist.

Many members of the audience surrounded Mr. Khozyainov with congratulations and good wishes after the last encore before departing into the rainy night.