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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...
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

Soprano Karina Gauvin

GAUVIN SPINS FRENCH SONG SORCERY IN INAUGURAL WEILL HALL VOCAL RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 13, 2012

An incessant topic of audience conversation about acoustics in the newly-opened Weill Hall – where is best to sit, can the oboe be heard - has tended since the inaugural gala weekend to overshadow the actual performances. Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin put many of those notions to rest Oct. 13 with a splendid recital of mostly French art song before a half-full house.

With pianist Michael McMahon, Ms. Gauvin presented six groups of songs in French that, although it’s the singer’s native tongue, the French language can have too much sonic familiarity over a full recital. Singing in German or Italian, which Ms. Gauvin also commands, tends to have greater variety of style and of course different vowel and distinct sounds. The soprano avoided sonic monotony with richly varied tone colors and vocal expressiveness.

The singer, resplendent in a flowing blue gown that added to the impression of fluidity in French music, opened with four Hahn songs that included the magical Si Mes Vers Avient des alles. This reviewer has always loved the classic but brisk Bidú Sayão recording, but in Weil and in a recording with virtuoso pianist Marc Andre-Hamlin Ms. Gauvin slowed things down to great effect, and continued with a lovely reading of A Chloris. Harmonic interest is foremost in these songs and was highlighted in Le Printemps by Mr. McMahon’s fluid pianism.

Three Duparc songs came next and in Chanson triste Ms. Gauvin opened up with more volume, reflecting much of the music of Duparc’s contemporary Faure. Chanson triste has a long fermata for the piano, as Phidylé also does with a postlude, and Ms. Gauvin’s pianissimo control that hands off the phrase to her pianist was complete. She uses very little chest resonance in her lower tones that don’t carry well, the voice sometimes disappearing towards the back of the hall.

Massenet songs, again in a block of four, closed the first half. The frothy Madrigal led into the famous and sad Elegy, the tempo for both songs was just right and the soprano’s voice beautifully colored and focused. Les Femmes de Magdala, concerning women watching the world from the side of a road, produced an elegant call and response between the singer and pianist, and another bantamweight ending. The finale, L’improvisateur, was rollicking.

Ms. Gauvin developed a happy rapport with her audience that included two members of her family, and remarked in song introductions about certain composers and certain anniversaries that affected her program selections. She frequently used an infectious laugh to punctuate stories and all was genuine and felicitous.

Ms. Gauvin performed a second half of 14 songs, all with impeccable intonation and disparate characterizations that continued the fluency of French song by using her operatic power deftly. Debussy’s Nuit d’etoiles was sung masterfully and the following Mandoline had a jolly character. The rhapsodic Beau Soir was a highlight of the evening, sensuously sung with palpable emotional impact.

Honegger’s set of six songs, Saluste de Bartas, was an upbeat antidote to the more conventional harmonies of the preceding music. Standing out were the interpretations of Le Château du Bartas with its repetitive rhythmic patterns in the piano part and bell-like tones, and the operatic Tout le long de las Baïse where Ms. Gauvin slightly widened her vibrato to accentuate this delicate and mesmerizing song, her voice liking to go high with sotto voce notes.

In Bizet the full palette of Ms. Gauvin’s vocal color was applied to four songs, each individual and passionately sung. Adieux de ‘hôtesse arabe was presented with an undulating line in the piano and a seamless and controlled legato from Ms. Gauvin. Bizet songs with a Spanish flavor (Guitare and Ouvre ton coeur) were alternatively sung coquettishly and with a dissonant Seville flair, in contrast to the lively dance hall taste of the vivacious and exciting La coccinelle. Ms. Gauvin seems to own La coccinelle with abundant facial expressions and connection with her audience and the singing was virtuosic.

Mr. McMahon was a consummate partner the entire evening, his arpeggios smooth and sforzandos dramatic and adding perfectly to Ms. Gauvin’s singing. He seldom had much original to say with his playing and eschewed inner voices, though a singer could not ask for a more dependable pianist.

Two encores in English were offered, beginning with Weill’s “Buddy on the Night Shift” (from the Propaganda Songs of 1944) and a Scottish folk song transcribed by an unnamed Canadian composer (Ms. Gauvin herself? Mr. Hamelin?). Both were idiomatically and stylishly performed and were a delight to the audience, eliciting additional bravas.

Mary Beard contributed to this review.