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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 ...
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.