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Recital
DYNAMIC PIANISM IN YAKUSHEV MARIN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 23, 2022
Russian pianist Ilya Yakushev arrived Jan. 23 at his Mill Valley Chamber Music Society recital with the repute of playing loud and fast and delivering charming introductory musical remarks to his audience. He was true to form in Mill Valley’s Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church, preceding Haydn’s sple
Symphony
THE SHOW MUST GO ON
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 9, 2022
The Jan. 9 Santa Rosa Symphony concert was supposed to feature the world premiere of Gabriella Smith’s first symphony, but it ended up featuring another type of premiere: a concert that was conceived, rehearsed and performed in less than eight hours. Symphony staff learned on Sunday morning that so
Choral and Vocal
AN OLD FRIEND RETURNS TO WEILL IN STERLING ABS MESSIAH PERFORMANCE
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Sunday, December 19, 2021
A tremendous accomplishment by the American Bach Soloists Dec. 19 was near perfect performance of Handel's Messiah in Weill Hall. Long an annual tradition at San Francisco's Grace Cathedral, the ABS took to the road and delivered a Christmas gift of epic proportions to an obviously thrilled and enth
Symphony
SHOSTAKOVICH FIFTH THUNDERS AT WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 5, 2021
In a new season marketed as “Classical Reunion,” the Santa Rosa Symphony made a palpable connection with its audience at the early December set of three standing ovation concerts in Weill Hall. The December 5 concert, with 1,000 attending, is reviewed here. Vaughan Williams’ popular Fantasia on a T
Chamber
THE LINCOLN RETURNS WITH CLARKE'S PUNGENT TRIO
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, November 18, 2021
There were many familiar faces Nov. 18 during Music at Oakmont’s initial concert of the season, but perhaps the most necessary were the three musicians of the Lincoln Piano Trio, the Chicago-based group that has performed often in Oakmont since 2006. A smaller than unusual audience in Berger Audito
Symphony
NOSTALGIC BARBER KNOXVILLE AT SO CO PHIL JACKSON THEATER CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 14, 2021
In their first Jackson Theater appearance of the new season the Sonoma County Philharmonic presented Nov. 14 a program devoid of novelty, but showcasing the “People’s Orchestra” in splendid performance condition after a long COVID-related layoff. Conductor Norman Gamboa drew a committed and boister
Chamber
THRILLING PIANO QUINTETS IN MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 14, 2021
The Mill Valley Chamber Music Society sprang back to life on November 14 when a stellar ensemble from the Manhattan Chamber Players, a New York-based collective, arrived to perform two piano quintets: Vaughn-Williams’ in C Minor (1903), little known and rarely performed; and Schubert’s in A Major D.
Chamber
MUSCULAR BRAHMS FROM IVES COLLECTIVE IN GLASER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 14, 2021
Leaving SRJC’s Newman Auditorium for the first time in decades, the College’s Chamber Concert Series presented a season-opening concert Nov. 14 in Santa Rosa’s Glaser Center with the four-musician Bay-Area based Ives Collective. The season, the first given since 2020, is dedicated to Series Founder
Symphony
MONUMENTAL BRAHMS SYMPHONY HIGHLIGHTS MARIN SYMPHONY RETURN
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 7, 2021
In the waning COVID pandemic the Marin Symphony is one of the last Bay Area orchestras to return to the stage, and they did with considerable fanfare Nov. 7 before 1,200 in Civic Center Auditorium, with resident conductor Alasdair Neale leading a demanding concert of Brahms, Schumann and New York-ba
Symphony
APOLLO'S FIRE LIGHTS UP VIVALDI'S FOUR SEASONS IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 30, 2021
Long ago the Canadian violin virtuoso Gil Shaham played a program in Weill Hall of solo Bach, with a visual backdrop of slowly developing visuals, such as a pokey flower opening over four minutes. The Bach was sensational, and some in the audience liked the photos but many found them disconcerting,
RECITAL REVIEW

Pianist Ryan MacEvoy McCullough at Mendocino College Feb. 6

MUSCULAR DE SILVA AND BEETHOVEN PERFORMANCES HIGHLIGHT MCCULLOUGH RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 6, 2011

Piano recitals often split into two parts, the ostensibly profound scores first and after intermission lighter fare is played. Ryan MacEvoy McCullough’s Feb. 6 recital at Mendocino College unfolded in a different way, the blockbuster works appearing just at intermission and during the entire second half.

Produced by Concerts Grand and luring 35 people away from Super Bowl television sets, the concert began with the slowest performance imaginable of Liszt’s imaginative Sonetto Del Petrarca 123, the left hand figurations distinct and underscoring the work’s lyrical nature. In several places the musical line almost was broken, but just almost. A seldom programmed Etude Tableaux from Rachmaninoff’s Op. 33 followed, its rich harmonies and sleigh bells effect carefully brought out by the pianist.

Less convincing were Chopin’s Mazurkas from Op. 33, and Mr. McCullough seemed to push the sound, especially in the rustic D Major, at the expense of the subtle rhythmic flexibility that characterizes these small masterpieces. The short C Major lacked the metrical “bounce” that Cortot and Friedman bring to the Mazurkas, and in the long B Minor Mazurka the pianist opted for a big sound rather than the pieces’ elusive languor.

Los Angeles-based composer Dante de Silva is a colleague of Mr. McCullough and three of the 35-year old composer’s works were offered. There were an eclectic mix, the first (“Shiburi”) written as a memorial to the late Humboldt County pianist Deborah Clasquin. Its slow wandering motive over four minutes didn’t lead to any concrete conclusions, and the amorphous “Padua” from the “Drive Through Etudes” (2006) was equally unappealing.

Closing the first half was Mr. De Silva’s nervous and pontilistic Piano Sonata No. 1 (“Arcata”), brilliantly played by Mr. McCullough. The episodic Moderato ritimico first movement featured repeated staccato chords in the treble, sections leaping all over like jumping beans. The arpeggios in the poetic middle section were elegant. Mr. McCullough’s attention to detail was everywhere evident in the middle movement, phrases overlapping with the pedal and small cascades of notes in the left hand telling. Bird call effects ended this haunting Largo.

In his spoken notes to the audience the pianist said the finale had a calypso character but if it was there, it was for me lost in the pulsating toccata movement, rhythmic power clearly the goal. Mr. McCullough’s technique was equal to the arduous task, his close hand positions and crossovers going by at high speed. Two forte bass notes announced the coda and the pianist drove everything into a whirlwind conclusion. He identifies with this music and made a compelling case for it.

Beethoven’s final Sonata in C Minor, Op. 111, occupied the program’s last half and received a reading full of dramatic effects and deep feeling. This monumental work was long ago thought to be reserved for pianists of extended years, but Mr. McCullough’s conception easily contradicted this belief. It was a muscular performance, the fugal section almost raucous in places. A deep and overly loud left hand C major chord led through a long pause to the Arietta, one of Beethoven’s greatest creations. The pianist kept an even tempo through the variations and the long strings of trills were played with a deft rise and fall. Mr. McCullough is a modern pianist and the repeats were always played the same. The composer and interpreter delivered peace in this sublime composition.

At the stately three-bar conclusion, the tones dying away, the audience seemed mesmerized and there was no sound in the room for 12 seconds. A standing ovation erupted but no encore was offered.

The reviewer is the producer of the Concerts Grand series.