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Choral and Vocal
A SEASONAL MESSIAH WITH BALANCE AND HEFT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 10, 2017
The mid-December concert season seems for jaded reviewers to invariably include a Messiah performance, and perhaps a Messiah in a long string of similar and mundane performances. This was decidedly not the case when San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque mounted Handel’s eminent three-part 1742 Orato...
Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony concert featured two elegant and refined guests: music director candidate Andrew Grams and pianist Stewart Goodyear. Both displayed dazzling technique and consummate artistry, but Goodyear was the more consistent of the two. Some of Grams’ inconsistency may have st...
Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
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 S...
Chamber
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the ...
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.