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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. ...
CHAMBER REVIEW

Russian Pianist Jura Margulis at the Henry F. Miller Concert Grand

MARGULIS SUCCEEDS AGAINST LONG ODDS

by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The odds for a successful piano recital didn’t look good. It was an unknown pianist from Russia via the University of Arkansas, playing for a new production company in the little-used small hall at the Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa — on a 110-year-old Henry Miller piano. Despite these long odds, Jura Margulis played an intriguing if not wholly satisfying concert on March 10 in front of 30 appreciative listeners.

Margulis played the opening Chopin Mazurkas (Ops. 30, Nos. 3 and 4) aggressively and with exceptionally strong contrasts. The first was a stately oberek (Polish dance), the second introspective. Prior to playing the majestical Polonaise in F Sharp, Op. 44, Margulis spoke at too much length about the pieces comprising the rest of the program, guaranteeing that much of his insightful prose would be lost when the actual performance arrived. Nonetheless, he offered a rhythmically strong and somewhat militaristic Polonaise performance, showing a fine octave technique with only a memory lapse to mar the drama.

One of Chopin’s most often played large works, the Op. 23 Ballade in G Minor, tells a story of considerable power, supposedly modeled on the writings of the Pole Adam Mickiewicz. All is familiar here, but Margulis brought new touches to the richly romantic score with a big ritard leading to the lyrical theme and many single notes held at the end of slow arpeggios. The playing had pesky fits and starts, an odd approach for a work with so much drama and momentum

Two Debussy works closed the first half, the radiant “Reflets dans l’eau” and the theatrical “L’isle Joyeuse.” The first of the 1905 Imagesfor Piano, “Reflets” was played with a big sound, the cascading arpeggios carrying over from the last two Chopin works. “L’Isle” was orchestrally conceived by Debussy and played that way by Margulis, lyrically but often bordering on the raucous, with a brittle treble tone, particularly when he wanted a lot of volume.

Liszt’s works occupied the second half, beginning with the popular D Flat Consolation, the third in a set of six from 1849. Margulis played with the phrases in this concise and poetic short work to the point where a glacial tempo almost stopped the musical line. There was pianistic color and harmonic emphasis throughout, and in the ethereal and slightly dissonant right-hand arpeggio near the end. For some reason, Margulis added a note after the two-note concluding chord.

It was brave to play the mighty B Minor Sonata on an unknown piano, but on balance the performance went well. Margulis began with staccato low Gs and swept into the maelstrom of notes with clean scales, a fast and even trill, and effective chord voicing in the chorale sections, introduced with extra-long fermatas. The octave technique was at all times admirable. This was not a performance of repose, even though this volcanic work with so much tumult demands times of respite. The Allegro Energetico fugue was preceded by the perdendossi descending scales with just the right steadiness and color, and then jumped ahead into more thematic transformation and the famous presto running octaves in both hands. Though at times the damper pedal could not clean the sound and caused blurring, Margulis’ command of distinct scale playing never deserted him, and the bravura was sufficient to generate a powerful reading of one of the summits of 19th-century piano writing. The final three pianissimo chords were played with a note in the left hand slightly before the right-hand chord in the treble, creating a novel effect.

Jura Margulis played an often inconsistent but never less than thrilling recital, overcoming pre-concert uncertainties to make an exciting Sonoma County debut.