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Chamber
SPARKLING WIND, STRING, HARP MUSIC AT DEVON HOUSE GARDEN CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, October 9, 2021
Take a mild autumn evening, a garden gazebo with patterned rugs and lit with soft bulbs, shake in a fine chamber ensemble, add a rising new moon, and you have a recipe for the musical delight that violist Elizabeth Prior presented Oct. 9 in her Devon House Garden Concert series. The Marin Terra Li
Recital
AUTHORITATIVE BEETHOVEN SONATA IN KLEIN'S OCCIDENTAL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, October 8, 2021
People attending the first Redwood Arts Council Occidental concert in 20 months found a surprise – a luxurious new lobby attached to the Performing Arts Center. It was a welcome bonus to a recital given by pianist Andreas Klein where the music seemed almost as familiar as was the long shuttered hal
Symphony
MOVIE MUSIC ON THE WINDSOR GREEN IN SO CO PHIL SEASON OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 3, 2021
People approaching the Windsor Green bandstand Oct. 3 for the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s season opening concert had some cause for concern. After 18 months of silence would the all-volunteer orchestra have enough musicians for a big movie music program? After all, performers can move, retire, or
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY RETURNS IN TRIUMPH
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 3, 2021
It is often the case that a single piece or performer steals the show at a symphony concert, but at the Oct. 3 performance of the Santa Rosa Symphony, the show itself stole the show. The concert opened with a serene 1982 tone poem by Libby Larsen, followed by a masterful performance by soloist Julia
Symphony
TWO WIND SOLOISTS CHARM AT SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 26, 2021
The house of music has many rooms. That dusty adage was never truer than when Weill Hall Sept. 25 hosted a roaring New Orleans-style musical party, and less than a day later a mostly sedate Sonoma State University student orchestra performance. Before a crowd of 200 conductor Alexander Kahn led a
Other
CLEARY'S NEW ORLEANS BAND IGNITES PARTY FOR THE GREEN AT SSU
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 25, 2021
A dramatic and unique start to the new Green Music’s Center’ 2021-2022 season exploded in a “Party for the Green” Sept. 25, a New Orleans (NO) style commotion featuring Jon Cleary and his Absolute Monster Gentlemen band, inside and outside of Weill Hall. Beginning with a private gourmet dinner in t
GAULIST FLAVOR IN FINAL SF PIANO FESTIVAL CONCERT AT OLD FIRST
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, August 29, 2021
Final summer music festival programs are often a mix of what has come before, with the theme and even a featured composer taking a last stage appearance, with a dramatic wrap up composition. San Francisco’s International Piano Festival defied the norm August 29 with an eclectic French-flavored prog
SPARE DUO PRECEDES MYSTEROUS DUO AT DEN BOER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, August 27, 2021
In a departure from usual summer festival fare Julia Den Boer played an August 27 virtual recital in the San Francisco Piano Festival’s 4.5 season with four works, all mostly quiet but all in separate ways insistently demanding of artist and listener. Throughout the 40 minutes there was nary a powe
HARMONIC COMPLEXITY IN PHILLIPS' ALL-GRIFFES RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, August 20, 2021
Charles Griffes’ piano music is similar to that of Busoni, Reger and even Poulenc, in that there is a sporadic flourish of interest with concerts and scholarly work, then a quick fade into another long period of obscurity. So, it was a delight to have an all-Griffes recital August 20 on the San F
Chamber
ONE PIANO, TWO PIANO, THREE PIANO, FORE
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 29, 2021
Schroeder Hall was nearly full July 29 for the final pianoSonoma concert of their season, and presumably the draw and highlight for many of the 150 attending was Bach’s Concerto for Four Pianos. And that performance was probably going to be a North Bay premiere. However, it wasn’t the highl
RECITAL REVIEW

Barbara Nissman On The Oakmont Stage June 14

VIRTUOSIC PROKOFIEV AND LISZT IN NISSMAN'S OAKMONT RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, June 14, 2012

Barbara Nissman’s pianism is best heard on her own terms, with little comparison to current performance practices. This was in evidence June 14 when the venerable West Virginia artist returned to Sonoma County, playing a long recital in the Oakmont Concert Series before 160 in Berger Auditorium.

The recital was long because of the artist’s spoken introduction (both incisive and silly) and because the program was packed with pieces associated with Ms. Nissman’s lengthy career, beginning with study under the Bartok specialist Gyorgy Sandor.

Liszt's transcription of Bach's A Minor Prelude and Fugue (BWV 543) opened the program, a propitious choice. Though piano transcriptions of Bach's organ works from d'Albert, Petri and Busoni were once popular, the Liszt work is the one currently heard and Ms. Nissman gave it a wonderful performance, stressing contrapuntal clarity over sonority. The artist lacks a big sound at the piano and during the entire concert there wasn't a true fortissimo. No matter, clarity prevailed through the repetitive phrasing of the Prelude and there were some beguiling staccato touches in the Fugue. An auspicious and captivating beginning.

Ms. Nissman is billed as a Romantic pianist but Beethoven’s C-Sharp Minor Sonata (Moonlight) was the antithesis of a romantic interpretation, and the cantabile first movement was played fast and almost without rubato, the shift pedal used throughout. The sprightly rhythms of the middle Allegretto were put into high relief with sharp changes in volume and bouncy clarity. In the finale (Presto Agitato) the broken chords were played masterfully and the entire movement had drama, albeit without the last ounce of power.

Six of Prokofiev's Visions Fugitives (Op. 22) and his Op. 28 Third Sonata closed the first half. Ms. Nissman has long been identified with the Russian's compositions and played everything superbly, eliciting in the Visions, each fewer than two minutes, disparate and complex pianistic vignettes. In No.1 Ms. Nissman found a droll, wandering scene, and the nostalgia of the eighth. Toccata rhythms of percussive dissonance were brought out in No. 14, and a Satie-like lethargy of the concluding No. 1.

Prokofiev’s one-movement Op. 28 Sonata has always been a Nissman specialty and she began at a fast clip, the bright and dry piano sound ideal for the driving tempest of the work. Here the artist and composer became one and I cannot remember a better performance of this pointillist and virtuosic Sonata. The accelerando in the coda was potent, the bravura intoxicating.

Three Rachmaninoff Preludes, all in a variant of G, began the second half. The popular and bucolic G major from Op.32 had many individual touches and a unique rush in the concluding bars. The G-Sharp Minor Prelude, from the same set, drew an evocative sound of troika bells and the pianist stressed the cool colors of the work, long associated with Horowitz. From Op. 23, the concluding G-Flat Major Prelude had the requisite lyricism but was also a prosaic in phrasing, needing a touch of repose.

The afternoon's major work, Liszt's B Minor Sonata, surprisingly closed the recital as it usually closes the first half. Quiet endings are seldom part of a final work in a piano recital. Santa Rosa has recently heard the Sonata in the hands of Bronfman, Ohlsson, Hewitt, Spooner and also eight years ago from Ms. Nissman in SRJC's Newman Auditorium. Her performance hasn't changed much, and was again individual in the approach to exhibiting reserved dynamics, attention to structure at the expense of heroics and brilliant scale passages. The artist sporadically sounded frenetic in rapid octaves (forceful but not majestic) but they never failed her, and the velocity of the fugue was compelling. Ms. Nissman worked hard to get color from the hall’s piano treble, with some success, and her legato playing was seductive. In sum, and unconventional and at times perplexing reading of this great work that on balance succeeded because of her strong individual vision.

Applause was large but not loud, but Ms. Nissman was determined to perform Ginastera, choosing the final two of the Dances Argentinas (Op.2) as encores. Associated with the prolific Argentine composer for decades, the pianist played the popular Danza de la Moza donosa and Danza del gaucho matero with palpable energy and attractive guitar-like rhythms. As in the Prokofiev, identification with the works was total and the playing ne plus ultra.