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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

Elena Kuschnerova in Newman Auditorium Nov. 20

PASSIONATE SCHUMANN AND POETIC TCHAIKOVSKY IN ELENA KUSCHNEROVA PIANO RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 20, 2011

Danish virtuoso Egon Petri once commented that most pianists “spend their melodic purse in small coin.” Elena’s Kuschnerova, in her second Concerts Grand appearance Nov. 20, would have none of that approach, playing a mercurial recital that left nothing on the table in the wake of her potent musical personality.

In SRJC’s Newman Auditorium the Russian dynamo, now living in Baden-Baden, took on Schumann’s mighty Symphonic Etudes, Op. 13, as the first half’s major work. These 12 studies are in the form of variations and require of the pianist a big chord technique, wide left-hand skips and the ability to carry perpetual motion sections to their extremes. In the Agitato fifth variation with its interlocking chords the playing was scintillating, and the brilliant final study in D Flat was a triumph of bravura. It was a brawny approach to one of Schumann’s greatest masterpieces, sonically thrilling. The audience of 115 rose as one in an ovation.

Six of Tchaikovsky’s pictures “Seasons”, Op. 37b, were played to begin the concert, and with a curious twist. The artist, after recalling her recital on the same stage three years ago, prefaced each of the six vignettes on the Russian months with a reading of the poems the composer appended to the score. And she declaimed short poems in richly-hued Russian, telling listeners that it was important to hear the words as the composer did when finishing the work in 1876. It was effective theater and combined perfectly with the selected months: May, June, July, August, October and December. In these works the pianist exhibited a light and often elegant touch, the opening arpeggios of “May” carrying to the top row and the Andante Doloroso e Molto Cantabile of “October” conveyed a haunting sadness. It was playing of conviction and occasional introspection. The Christmas “Noel” in A Flat was taken at a quick pace, a good thing due to the multiple repetitions of the waltz theme, and the generous phrase-ending rubatos were deftly performed.

Ms. Kuschnerova opened the all-Liszt second part as she did in the first, presenting mostly lyrical works and started with a chaste performance of the Third Consolation in D Flat, using the shift pedal continuously for color. In the six Liszt pieces the artist’s sovereign pianistic command was everywhere on display, the upper body in constant movement but both feet firmly on the damper and shift pedals. The second of the three Concert Etudes, “La Leggierezza,” was played with graceful arabesques and varied repeats, more delicate than powerful.

Power was on display in the concluding Mephisto Waltz No. 1, the untiring broken octaves and granitic chord playing seeming able to raise the cool temperature of the hall. The only pianistic missteps occurred in Sonetto 104 and in the transcription of the Schumann song “Widmung” where finger slips marred the otherwise ardent tonal portrayal of romantic dedication.

A month previously in the same venue and with the same piano Jon Nakamatsu played the three Sonetti Del Petrarca, and here Ms. Kuschnerova choose two of them, 123 and 104. The contrast between the two artists in these works was pronounced, as Mr. Nakamatsu lingered over many passages and stressed tonal color, where Ms. Kuschnerova choose an agitated approach with sporadic elegant phrases. However, the atmospheric ending of the Sonetto 123 captivated the audience, the pianissimo final b flat a flat notes hanging ethereally in the air for many seconds.

Three encores were demanded, beginning with the Siloti transcription of Bach’s B Minor Prelude, and the playing emphasized the softly descending harmonic patterns and inner voices in the left hand. Prokofiev’s explosive “Mercutio” movement from the 1937 ballet “Romeo and Juliet” and the March from the opera “The Love For Three Oranges” followed, each receiving carefully gauged but volcanic interpretations.

Elena Kuschnerova at 40 is playing at the top of her game, a fearless and passionate pianist in the music she wishes to present to the public.

The reviewer is the producer of the Concerts Grand series.