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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
Mill Valley Chamber Music Society / Sunday, January 13, 2019
Nikolay Khozyainov, piano

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.