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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...
RECITAL REVIEW
Ukiah Community Concert Association / Sunday, October 3, 2010
Gwhyneth Chan, piano

Pianist Gwhyneth Chen in Ukiah

VOLCANIC TRANSCRIPTIONS AND DELIBERATE NOCTURNES HIGHLIGHT UKIAH RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 3, 2010

An appreciative audience greeted Gwhyneth Chen Oct. 3 when the pianist launched the Ukiah Community Concerts Association’s new season. And the artist’s mood, mostly lyrical and relaxed, seemed to match that of the audience of 225 that crowded the New Life Community Church.

The program contained five Chopin Nocturnes, including the E-Flat as an encore, and in the initial Op. 32 works a recital-long pattern emerged. Ms. Chen possesses a lovely touch, deft control of cantilena, variation in the repeated sections, crystalline scale playing and trills that are even and subtle. However, the tempos throughout the concert were deliberate, which mostly worked and occasionally did not. In the mid section of the Op. 32, No. 2, she was able to keep the melodic line going in the outer fingers while playing accompanying chords in the same hand. The last big repeat was played piano, the effect lovely and benefiting from a studied voice leading.

Chopin’s Fourth Scherzo in E, Op. 54, followed and again was a case study in lovely scale playing, dropped notes in the coda notwithstanding. It was a slow and dreamy conception of a joyous work, lacking perhaps only the last bit of drama. The lyrical mid section in C Sharp was a delicate waltz, half pedaled.

The first half concluded with the Schulz-Evler transcription of Strauss’ Blue Danube, a recital showpiece made famous by the incomparable Lhevinne recording of 1930, and by Bolet’s Carnegie Hall recital record of 1974. There is some controversy that the mysterious Schulz-Evler didn’t write the work at all, and Moszkowski did. In any case, here the three-note introduction was played ever so slowly but raised the anticipation level for the entrance of the immortal Viennese theme. Ms. Chen’s tonal palate became strident when she pushed the sound, lacking the color of the Nocturnes, but it’s that kind of piece. In the powerful final upward run, the pianist took the brief “hiccup” in the middle, as does Lhevinne but not Bolet.

Two Chopin Nocturnes from Op. 37 opened the second half, again ones not often played. The legato playing in the choral-like passages of the G Minor was elegant, some I think played with the sostenuto pedal. The G Major work, from 1839, became a captivating barcarolle in Ms. Chen’s hands, with a rocking bass and rich hues in the treble. The Association’s piano, with a new action, had substantial sustain in the treble and Ms. Chen made full use of the tonal “bloom,” quiet notes reaching easily to the far back of the spacious hall. On balance, her slow tempos derailed the long line and the music began to wander, though it was a conception in every way to admire.

An early Chopin work, the Op. 2 “La Ci Darem La Mano” Variations, came next and though not a profound work from the Polish master, was good to hear in concert. The filigree playing was estimable, interrupted by dramatic sforzandos and Ms. Chen’s remarkable scales in both hands. The big four march-like bridge passes lent structure to this sprawling composition. It was Chopin’s Paris calling card and a favorite for the Ukiah audience.

Vladimir Horowitz’ Carmen Variations closed the concert with an aural cascade of notes at high volume and speed, handled well by Ms. Chen. Composed originally in the 1920s and altered over the years, the work takes a gypsy dance from Bizet’s last opera and contains a large array of virtuoso technical demands, including the diabolical interlocking octaves in the coda. It was brought off with panache and insouciance, rolling to a powerful ending and a standing ovation.

The one encore, Chopin’s Op. 9, No. 2 Nocturne, was played with consummate grace, lush colors and at a languorous tempo.