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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
Oakmont Concert Series / Thursday, September 10, 2009
OLGA VINOKUR, CONCERT PIANIST

Pianist Olga Vinokur

VINOKUR SHINES IN ALL-RUSSIAN PROGRAM AT OAKMONT

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, September 10, 2009

Planning and performing an All-Russian program is not a hard task as long as a solo pianist is the executant. The Slavic keyboard literature, even excluding the 19th Century, is vast, and Russian expatriate Olga Vinokur dipped into the works of five notable Russians in her Sept. 10 Oakmont Concert Series recital. Ms. Vinokur, a New York resident by way of early years in Russia and studies in Israel, gave a committed but largely low-key concert for 200 attendees in Berger Auditorium.

Beginning with Shostakovich’s first numbered composition, the 3 Fantastic Dances from 1922, Ms. Vinokur established a pattern that would continue throughout the recital – earnest attention to detail, carefully balanced voicing between the hands and a deft pianissimo touch. The Dances were forgettable curiosities and an odd selection, considering the greatness of the composer’s Op. 87 Preludes and Fugues, but there was fleeting charm for all, and in the second piece the pesky right-hand skips were effortlessly played.

Ten Scriabin Preludes came next, mostly from the Op. 11 set (of 24), but introduced by the haunting Prelude in C-Sharp Minor (for the left hand) from Op. 9. In all these the specter of Chopin looms large, and Ms. Vinokur was content to underplay, looking for subtle contrast and avoiding a big sound. Repose in these works is welcome, but more rhythmic flexibility was needed in the wistful A Minor and dreamy D Major preludes. Ms. Vinokur played the entire set well, but at times the phrasing was predictable, removed from the masterful Scriabin of Sofronitzky and Shura Cherkassky. Two Scriabin studies followed, the Op. 2, No. 1, the most memorable of the pair, and long a Horowitz favorite. Perhaps Scriabin’s most popular work, the D-Sharp Minor Etude from Op. 8 (in the original version) received a routine performance missing the demonic force that caused dancer Isadora Duncan to say that the Etude was the “agony of the Russian people.”

Medtner wrote three volumes of Forgotten Melodies, and the pianist played just one, a Canzona Matinata from Op. 39. The runs were half-pedaled, the nostalgia of the work carefully unfolding. Medtner never gets enough performances, and this one had a simple enchantment.

The first half ended with Prokofiev’s short Third Sonata, Op. 28, a work last played in Oakmont by pianist Gila Goldstein. Here Ms. Vinokur struggled a bit technically, her beguiling soft playing unable to offset the lack of the requisite left-hand fortes and the intrusion of several quick memory lapses. The bravura and rhythmic drive were present, but not quite in the amount needed to carry the piece.

The second part was all Rachmaninoff, comprising the Six Moments Musicaux, Op. 16, and a transcription of Kreisler’s violin bagatelle Liebeslied. The Op. 16 works are early, from 1896, and are brilliantly written salon works in a late-Romantic style. For me they lack the interest and compact textures of the more famous Op. 23 Preludes, and under Ms. Vinokur’s fingers made a mixed impression. In some, especially in the rhetorical B-Flat Minor and the barcarolle-like D-Flat Major, she caught the ruminating character of the works, too similar to Scriabin, and her legato scales shimmered. In pieces that had vast swirls of notes, as the composer often writes, the playing became muddy, and in the second piece she was briefly lost. It’s easy to do that with so much florid pianistic decoration. The rhythmic patterns of the final C Major “Moment” were brought out well, presaging the same model for the later B-Flat Prelude of Op. 23.

The Liebeslied, the first of a pair of reworkings from the composer’s colleague Fritz Kreisler, was played with charm and rhythmic vitality, if not the last ounce of virtuosity.

One encore was offered, a Scarlatti sonata, performed with fleet panache. It was worlds removed from the sonorous harmonies from the Russians composers.