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Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
Symphony
PEACE AND LOVE FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 04, 2018
Before the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 4 performance of Leonard Bernstein’s “Symphonic Dances from West Side Story,” Symphony CEO Alan Silow took a moment to acknowledge the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack and to observe that music offers a more peaceful and loving view of the world. Mr. ...
REVIEW

Philip Glass at his piano

BEYOND THE SOPORIFIC

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 19, 2009

Reactions from listeners to the music of Philip Glass usually are of two types. One group flees quickly from the hall and concludes that Glass is a mere shadow of the greater minimalist composers Reich, Adams and Riley. Others, with more patience and curiosity, give the music time to unfold and, especially in Glass’s operas, uncover sonic gems.

In the Napa Opera House on Feb. 19, Glass played a 90-minute recital of his music at the piano. A full house of 500 greeted the composer, who announced the works from the stage. Beginning with “Mad Rush,” a 14-minute work from 1979 dedicated to the Dali Lama, it became quickly apparent that Glass is not a virtuoso pianist. The repetitive figures were seldom played evenly, especially in the right hand, and given that so much of his music is in the upper registers, he has a surprisingly pallid tonal palette. He does, however, know how to phrase his works with adroit care, and he moved easily to three of the “Metamorphosis” pieces from around 1980 that became part of the scores for the movies The Hours and The Thin Blue Line.

In these richly hued discourses, and in eight of the “Twenty Etudes for Piano” (four are still to be written), Glass captivated listeners with his convoluted and sonorous sonic fabric, all played with long stretches of full damper pedal, sporadic shift pedal and a rainbow of sound. He constantly used two pianistic tools: hand crossings and pedal point. There were also frequent deceptive cadences that tended to prolong the already lengthy exposition of the Etudes beyond (at least) my attention level. Several times Glass forgot where he was in a piece and wandered about until a phrase reoccurred that he could latch onto. These wanderings didn’t matter to the audience, as music with so much repetitive structure just rolls on without much need to change. I heard Keith Jarrett’s pianism and Glass’s own Satyagraha in the playing.

The concert closed with “A Night on the Balcony,” written in 1991 and inspired by Jean Genet’s play The Screens, a depiction of the French occupation of Algiers. Here the long lines were punctuated by sforzandos in the left hand and more melodic interest than the preceding pieces. I found the piece entrancing and not at all soporific.

The single encore was from the 1981 “Glassworks,” titled appropriately “Opening and Closing.” It was more of the warmly-shaped arpeggios and repeated chords in both hands, effective and kaleidoscopic.

The concert was far from the usual piano recital. It was not only memorable, but also, as the composer was the performer, instructive.

Santa Rosa music explorer Dr. Victor Spear contributed to this review.