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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...
REVIEW

Pianist John Bayajy at his Pt. Reyes Recital March 27

SONOROUS BACH TRANSCRIPTION HIGHLIGHTS BOYAJY'S DANCE PALACE RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 27, 2011

Marin Pianist John Boyajy’s concerts are never conventional. His usual mix of extended verbal introduction and musical performance can be unsettling if the balance isn’t right. In a Point Reyes Station recital at the Dance Palace March 27 all was in equilibrium, the music sparkling and the commentary persuasive and enlightening.

Before and audience of 90 on a wet and blustery afternoon the program began with Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Sonata in D, Op. 28, an innovative work from 1801. Playing from score as he did the entire concert, Mr. Boyajy choose judicious tempos coupled with an aggressive approach, his scale passages clear and rippling. In the long and convoluted Andante he caught the movement’s humor, and the Scherzo was engaging.

In the finale (Rondo) the pianist played the sweeping arpeggiated passages and syncopated rhythms with élan, the middle section forceful and sometimes a bit loud. The composer’s endless inventiveness led to several deceptive closing cadences and Mr. Boyajy held the music back at times, clarifying the bucolic nature with ample ritards at bars 123 and 192. In all, a muscular and well thought out interpretation.

Four Liszt works followed, the Soirées de Vienne No. 6 being added to the program and introduced in a theatrical but prescient analysis by the artist. The Sonetto Del Petrarca 104, from the second book of the Années de Pèlerinage, began the set with the pianist providing a muscular and declamatory reading. The left hand chordal playing was distinct and the romantic fervor of the work clearly conveyed. In several places small hesitations interrupted the musical line, not caught by the damper pedal.

Late in his life Liszt wrote four works with the title Valse Oubliée, and before intermission Mr. Boyajy selected the first. His pianism provided the necessary charm but the performance was not wholly successful, as the waltz needed a lighter touch in the fast sections.

The sixth Soirée came after intermission, one of nine transcriptions Liszt made of Schubert waltzes. These are “mit schlag” works and the sixth was a favorite of Rosenthal and Horowitz. Here Mr. Boyajy pushed the sound, his deft left hand never overplaying the “om pa pa” rhythms. Another piece from the Italian book of travels, Sposalizio, closed the Liszt group and was characterized by playing of high drama. The pianist favored drawn-out ritards and strongly accented eight bass notes, bringing the right hand into sharp relief. The forte passages were vehement and bordered at times in stridency, perhaps contributed to by the piano’s treble and the flat wood floor in the hall.

Bach’s Chaconne (BWV 1004), the concluding movement in the D Minor Sonata for solo violin, is a pinnacle of violin performance and has been transcribed by composers as disparate as Raff, Siloti, Brahms, Busoni, Hamelin and the conductor Leopold Stokowski. Mr. Boyajy has melded both the Busoni and Siloti versions into a 15-minute work of monumental power, albeit with several of his own additions, and the Pt. Reyes performance was presumably a premiere of sorts. For me it was the highlight of the afternoon, an odyssey of rich sound that in the upper reaches of the piano reflected certain registers of the organ. The pianist was in no hurry throughout, the slow running octave passages in both hands always pungent and the phrasing graceful. The recitative sections were played with welcome surcease to the orchestral sonorities, and here and there an inner voice was emphasized. Surprisingly, the massive final chord was followed with three decidedly unmassive single notes. Were these Mr. Boyajy’s benediction for the triumphant journey?

A standing ovation greeted the Chaconne’s singular accomplishment, but no encore was offered.