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Chamber
STYLISH HAYDN QUARTETS CLOSE GREEN ROOM SERIES
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, May 9, 2021
Completing the Green Music Center’s spring series series of “Green Room” virtual concerts, the St. Lawrence String Quartet played May 9 a lightweight program of two Haydn works. Lightweight perhaps, but in every way satisfying. The G Major Quartet (Op. 76, No.1) began the music that was supplement...
Recital
ECLECTIC PIANISM IN SPRING LAKE VILLAGE VIRTUAL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, May 5, 2021
During the pandemic The Santa Rosa Symphony’s virtual concerts received their due in performance praise, but another series, Spring Lake Village, more quietly presented monthly virtual concerts to a select local audience. May 5 saw the latest event, produced by impresario Robert Hayden, and feature...
Symphony
SONIC CONTRASTS HIGHLIGHT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SPRING PROGRAM
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 25, 2021
In a curious mixture of compositions, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s penultimate virtual concert of the season April 25 unfolded in ways both highly satisfying and a bit perplexing. Directed by resident Music Director Francesco Lecce-Chong, the event followed a familiar format – several contemporary wor...
Symphony
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 REVIEW
Mendocino Music Festival / Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Roy Malan, Violin
Kumaran Arul, Piano

Violinist Roy Malan and Pianist Kumaran Arul at Mendocino's Preston Hall

MALAN AND ARUL TAME GRIEG AT THE MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL

by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Now in its 23rd season, the Mendocino Music Festival has a reputation for combining innovative crossover programming with the delights of summer on the North Coast – ocean breezes, warm morning fog, Victorian village flower gardens and memorable cuisine. For Roy Malan’s violin recital of July 15, the program was a little novel and a little conventional, but the artistry was first cabin.

Joined at the piano by Stanford University faculty member Kumaran Arul, Mr. Malan’s usual effervescent pre-performance remarks were in evidence as he introduced Mr. Arul as a passionate collector of recordings of the “golden era” of the piano, and discussed the classic 1928 recording of the afternoon’s big work, Grieg’s C Minor Sonata, by none other than Kreisler and Rachmaninoff. Kreisler and Mr. Malan are violinists separated not only by a generation or two, but by their sound. The former’s tone is as wide as the great bay in front of Mendocino, the latter’s style is more constrained and the sound focused but not rich in partials or the broad phrasing that Kreisler derived from his Vienna training under Massart. What Mr. Malan brings to a recital is the art of a consummate professional, playing a wider range of music than any violinist known to me, and reflecting his own famous teachers: Galamian, Gingold and Zimbalist.

Before a jammed Preston Hall audience the program began with a curiosity, Zimbalist’s Sonata In G Minor, Written in 1926 and revised in 1968, Mr. Malan recorded the work years ago (with Robin Sutherland) and with Mr. Arul gave a compelling reading. The opening adagio sostenuto starts tentatively, the fiddle displaying no vibrato, and evolves into a lyrical theme reminiscent of John Powell’s Op. 7 Violin Sonata. Powell was an American composer with whom Zimbalist toured as early as 1913. It’s a long movement, quite Gallic in character without attaching to any individual French composer, and Mr. Malan underscored the theatrical nature of the themes, often in the top register ever so close to the bridge. After some uncharacteristic false notes, Mr. Arul settled down to wholly artistic support in a piece that must have been quite new to him. The second movement, a plaintive and languorous dance, was short and juxtaposed questioning phrases from the violin, answered by the piano. A lovely interchange indeed.

The allegro vivo finale was an animated and often jazzy ride, at one time finding Mr. Malan holding a note solidly for 15 seconds over the syncopated piano line. There are allusions to Rachmaninoff harmonies here, again often in higher registers, and Mr. Malan played it very well.

Dvorak’s Sonatina in G Major, Op. 100, closed the first half, and from the first notes it was unmistakably from the Czech composer’s American period, almost as familiar as the String Quartet in F. The four-movement work is really a set of dances: the rustic with pianissimo ending, a Negro spiritual folk song ending again lightly in a captivating descending phrase; an upbeat “square dance” Scherzo; and a whirling finale full of deceptive cadences and “Virginia Reel” rhythmic excitement.

The intermission brought a respite for the perspiring audience, buoyed by sea breezes from the hall’s open windows (they were closed at the concert’s beginning to prevent the violin from going out of tune), and the second half contained only the Op. 45 Grieg. Here the specter of Kreisler again appeared, Mr. Malan’s tonal approach gaining heft in the tumultuous opening Allegro molto. At times the piano sound overpowered the violin, and perhaps Grieg, a virtuoso pianist, would not have been at all bothered. Some of Mr. Malan’s finest playing occurred in the second movement, the balances restored and his trill slow and amazingly even. There is an ascending phrase at the end which leads up to an E natural, two octaves above the open string E, played sometimes as a harmonic which means vibrato is not heard on the note. Some violinists play it not as a harmonic but fully stopped and with vibrato, which is what I heard. Mr. Malan nailed every note, the last one deftly sailing off over the massive white Festival tent a half mile distant.

Grieg’s finale is again boisterous, and was played that way with echoes from the first movement’s themes. Mr. Arul’s energetic octaves occasionally imposed on the violin line but to no great disadvantage, both musicians bent on conveying the work’s drama and fire. Mr. Malan’s spiccato bow was vigorously dancing near the end, a joyous homage to a lyrical and demanding masterpiece. Though the applause was long and loud, the audience asked for no encore. A curious omission, as I suspect Kreisler’s delectable “Schön Rosmarin” or “Liebesfreud” were at the ready.

Roy Malan has become the North Coast’s most popular violinist, playing in several orchestras, the Trio Navarro and with many chamber ensembles, and here teamed with the formidable Mr. Arul provided the high artistry synonymous with the resplendent Mendocino Festival.

Violinist Dan Greenhouse contributed to this review.