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Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now they seem to be on almost ever...
Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the season’s final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church, as the performers...
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.