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ZUILL PLAYS ZWILICH WITH SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The Santa Rosa Symphony took a cautious step toward the return of live music in their March 28 virtual concert by sharing the stage with an actual live soloist rather than an apparition. Star cellist Zuill Bailey was still masked, and his back was toward the equally masked and plexiglassed orchestra...
Chamber
ECLECTIC CELLO PIANO VIRTUAL RECITAL FROM TOMKINS ZIVIAN DUO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The venerable 41-year Redwood Arts Council Series in Occidental has joined the virtual recital world with low budget but artistically satisfying programs, mostly using videos filmed in the performer’s residences. March 28 saw the Tanya Tomkins-Eric Zivian duo present an eclectic program from their ...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HITS THE SWEET SPOT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Small orchestras can inhabit a sweet spot between chamber ensembles and full orchestras, but how well they hit that spot depends on the composer's orchestration and the players' ability to project. That dependence was on full display in the Santa Rosa Symphony's Feb. 28 concert, which featured three...
Chamber
NOVEL OBOE-HARPSICHORD RECITAL FROM AIKEN DUO IN UKIAH
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Oboe and harpsichord recitals are a rare North Bay event, even in a pandemic environment where a formal hall setting isn’t available. So it was a delight Feb. 21 to experience on the Ukiah Symphony’s website a recital by Symphony oboist Beth Aiken and harpsichordist husband Tom. The Aiken home vis...
Symphony
A HEALTHY MIX OF TRANSCRIPTIONS AND ORIGINALS FROM THE SR SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Transcriptions and ascending arpeggios were the order of the day on Jan. 24, as the Santa Rosa Symphony performed uplifting works by Bach/Webern, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Marianna Martínes and Mozart. The concert video was made in Weill Hall on Jan. 9. The first transcription was Webern’s 1935 renderi...
Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
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...
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.