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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

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.