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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
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....
RECITAL REVIEW
Mendocino Music Festival / Sunday, July 11, 2010
Paul Roberts, piano

Pianist Paul Roberts in Preston Hall July 11

ROBERTS PLAYS UNEVEN RECITAL AT MENDOCINO FESTIVAL

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 11, 2010

British pianist Paul Roberts played a recital in two disparate parts July 11 in Mendocino Music Festival’s piano series in Preston Hall.

Before 65 people Mr. Roberts planned the initial part around music of Ravel and Liszt, each with extensive descriptive titles. The pieces were preceded by a lengthy verbal introductions, set out in Mr. Roberts’ unique blend of historical description, philosophy, musical analysis and a sporadic dash of gossip. The pianist is a superb speaker, witty and at all times pithy and instructive. It’s refreshing to hear the English language fashioned so well. At times one wished for more piano playing and less education, but it’s a summer festival and the speaker knows the territory.

What the artist didn’t do well, at least until the intermission, is to play the piano at a high level. In Liszt’s “Au Lack Du Wallenstadt” the chosen tempo, as throughout the afternoon, was fine but the piano sound was muffled, the left hand indistinct under the simple melody. The same composer’s “Au bord d’une source” was heavily pedaled with a heavy touch and the line was broken by an extended pause. Aural memories came back to a Horowitz performance in Carnegie Hall of the same piece, awash with a shimmer of sound and delicate phrasing and half pedal. Shura Cherkassky’s rendition was also inimitable.

Ravel’s “Jeux d’eau” received a more idiomatic reading with fluid arpeggios and a “watery” cadenza. Two more Liszt works followed, the Sonetto del Petrarca No. 123 and the revised version of “Les Cloches de Genève.” Played from score, the former featured a modest tempo and even but slow trills, the melodic line imaginatively played and the final note lingering and almost inaudible. The faster parts of “Cloches” strained the pianist’s technique, the imperfect pedaling enhancing the overy loud statement of the second theme. These “bells” had neither the tenderness at the opening nor heroism in the octave passages.

Often in the first half playing above forte produced a harsh tone and a less-than-polished conception, but with Debussy everything changed. Here Mr. Roberts was in his element. He recently authored an acclaimed biography of the composer, but that’s no insurance that he can play in Debussy the layers of refined sound with unusual pedal effects at a virtuoso level. Worry not, as the Roberts conception of the French master’s music was an ideal combination of head and heart. Beginning with “L’isle joyeuse” and finishing with the iconic “Children’s Corner” Suite, all was in harmonious order. The piano tone became more richly hued, the digital command more secure. “Gradus ad Parnassum” built to a toccata conclusion, the accelerando at the end forceful but without harshness. The set unfolded in a masterly way, each of the six pieces fashioned with long study and a sure touch. I particularly liked the inner voices and accurate skips from “Jimbo’s Lullaby” and the repose and syncopated jazz harmonies of “Golliwog’s Cake-Walk.”

Two additional Debussy works were offered, the short and mysterious “Canope” and “Les collines d’Anacapri.” The latter is from the first book of Preludes (1910) and the folk like material was performed with a lively and bright palette. Debussy has a consummate interpreter in Paul Roberts.

No encore was offered.