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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...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
BEETHOVEN'S VALENTINE'S DAY GIFT IN RAC SEBASTOPOL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, February 14, 2020
Continuing a season of Redwood Arts Council successes, the Kouzov Duo performed an eclectic Valentine’s Day concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church before an audience of 125. Beethoven’s charming Op. 66 Variations on Mozart’s “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from the opera the Magic Flute was a bouncy ...
LUSH BACH PERFORMANCE IN DENK'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 13, 2020
Memorable artistic interpretations of musical masterpieces are often at extremes, and with the Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (WTC - Book I) that Jeremy Denk played in Weill Hall Feb. 13, the pianist was only sporadically at unique or ebullient musical ends. But his playing wasn’t exactly at opposite...
BROWNE, PAREMSKI HEAD STELLAR CAST AT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 9, 2020
The Feb. 9 performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony offered a healthy dose of 21st century music firmly bound to the 19th. Matt Browne’s first symphony, “The Course of Empire”—based on a series of five paintings by Thomas Cole, who founded the Hudson River School of American painting in the 1820s—emp...
RECITAL REVIEW

Jeremy Denk Feb. 13 in Weill Hall (J. McNeill Photo)

LUSH BACH PERFORMANCE IN DENK'S WEILL HALL RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 13, 2020

Memorable artistic interpretations of musical masterpieces are often at extremes, and with the Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (WTC - Book I) that Jeremy Denk played in Weill Hall Feb. 13, the pianist was only sporadically at unique or ebullient musical ends.

But his playing wasn’t exactly at opposites, such as old classic recordings of Edwin Fischer (1936) with a modicum of damper pedaling, and Glenn Gould’s pointillism approach (1965), and currently Andras Schiff’s WTC readings with no pedal use at all. Mr. Denk’s mood before an audience of 800 that was sprinkled with local pianists was a mixture of modesty and introspection that gave the music the needed cohesion in a long recital. You had the feeling that this was the artist’s stamp of secure approval of a masterpiece.

In remarks from the stage the pianist mentioned that the music was yet to be firm in his memory, and thus there was a page turner. But the turner didn’t do much to earn his keep, as Mr. Denk did most of his own turning and often didn’t look at the score. He spoke about the spirituality of the music composed in 1722, and the difference from the Goldberg Variations that he recently played in a studio recording that for me had speedy tempos and sonic clarity.

The playing throughout the 111 minutes and one long intermission was not to the taste of many Bach keyboard devotees. It’s well known that in Weill legato playing can generate muddy sound, especially in Baroque music and even in composers such as Schumann, and Mr. Denk all evening used the damper pedal lavishly. The Hall’s instrument, perfectly in tune, was warmly voiced, and this added to a lush sound foreign to much Bach. Perhaps an old Baldwin piano, or a new Bösendorfer, would have sounded better for Bach’s WTC under Mr. Denk’s virtuosic fingers and feet?

That said, there was much felicitous playing. He almost always arpeggiated final chords in the slower fugues, played lovely graded crescendos, emphasized appoggiaturas and demonstrated keen dynamic control in soft playing for long periods. At the end of many phrases ritards were deftly done, and throughout there were just a few brief hesitations in the music’s flow, presumably due to the announced “yet to be fully baked” memorization. His left hand jumps off of accented notes were not for visual emphasis, but made sonic sense in mostly individual Preludes, but also in the dancing 19th Fugue in A. The B Flat Prelude and Fugue (No. 21) was played as a brilliant Toccata that had wonderful rhythmic vitality. Many fermatas were held for long seconds, enhancing the beauty.

At the beginning of the second half Mr. Denk announced that he would follow the final spiritual B Minor Prelude and Fugue, which has the longest fugue in the set, with a repetition of Book I’s opening Prelude in C Major. Oddly the playing of the C Major was slightly faster than the opening version, but it ended with a quiet arpeggiated chord that held the audience in rapt reverence. As the music finally crept into silence, a roar of audience approval erupted with a standing ovation.

Sonoma State Music Dept. Professor Alexander Kahn’s pre-recital lecture on Bach and the WTC was erudite, and surely helped many in the audience to appreciate the odyssey of hearing Mr. Denk in this magisterial music.