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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

Gustavo Romero On Berger's Stage Oct. 18

FORMIDABLE PIANISM FROM GUSTAVO ROMERO

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 18, 2012

Austin-based pianist Gustavo Romero has a second artistic home in Sonoma County, having played three times on the Oakmont Concert Series and in a number of private concerts. He returned to Oakmont’s Berger Auditorium Oct. 18 to play a formidable recital of Bach, Beethoven, Debussy and Rachmaninoff.

In one of the longest programs in recent memory, Mr. Romero played three Beethoven sonatas, finishing the first half with the mighty “Appassionata.” Throughout the afternoon, he was never in a hurry to get anywhere, even in the finale of the Appassionata, where performers tend to pile up too many notes in too short a space, thus blurring the musical line. Mr. Romero is neither a pianist of the most subtle phrasing nor a great colorist. What you hear is what you get--unfussy and well-thought out interpretations, left foot always on the shift pedal, no extraneous facial expressions or mannerisms, serious communion with the composer. It’s an approach sharply different from that of Lang Lang nearly three weeks previously in Weill Hall. Mr. Romero is all business.

He began with a lyrical performance of the Andante from Bach’s second violin sonata, in the Godowsky transcription. It was a balanced reading with deft inner lines and terraced dynamics.

In the first of the Beethoven sonatas, Op. 78, Mr. Romero continued his leisurely tempos, with differentiated repeats. It was graceful playing, as was the following, the popular “Hunt” sonata. This work requires the gentle touch Mr. Romero brought to it, the big sforzandos all the more surprising. He used a light pedal in the Scherzo, and though his scales were clear, they were hardly crystalline.

The Appassionata, played often in Santa Rosa in the past five years, was a relaxed but thankfully a nonstructural interpretation. This sonata is emotional throughout, including the short set of variations making up the middle movement, which uses one of Beethoven’s most attractive melodies. Mr. Romero varies his trills from moderate to brilliant all through the piece, and twice he let the sound linger with long movement-ending fermatas. The finale, marked Presto, was hardly that but showed clear articulation, and the dynamic sweep was always under control. A careful but effective interpretation.

Tonal color was foremost in the three Debussy works that opened the second half. “Pagodes” was played atmospherically, with the pianist using half-pedal effects, creating a wash of soft and bell-like sounds. “La Soirée dans Grenade” has a habanera rhythm that Mr. Romero emphasized, almost to the detriment of the guitar effects. The last piece, “Jardins sous la pluie,” was played with a broad dynamic range, and the multiple dynamic levels were carefully rendered. Here the artist’s tempo was faster and the result was a highlight of the recital.

Rachmaninoff preludes, preceded by the early Op. 3 “Elegie,” closed the recital. The lush Chopineque melodies of the Elegie were languorously and elegantly played, leading to five preludes, each of a sharply different character. The B Minor of Op. 32, reported by Moiseiwitsch to be the composer’s favorite, was played with rich colors and a masterful control of pianissimo. A series of sleigh-bell sounds came with the Op. 32 prelude in G-Sharp Minor, the vocal nature of the writing beautifully underscored by the pianist. Two preludes in G followed. The Op. 23 version had the right “military” character with bright repeated right-hand chords, and the Op. 32 waxed nostalgic. In the latter, Mr. Romero played the final three chords chastely, with just the right silence between them.

The concluding prelude was the glorious one in D Flat Major, played here more slowly than usual. It had a monumental and powerful sound, and the chordal voicing was always even.

Repeating an encore of a past Oakmont recital, Mr. Romero played Turkish composer Fazil Say’s “Black Earth,” a 1997 work that makes use of held forte pianistic chords combined with hand-muted (on the strings) notes and quick right-hand figurations. It was a long encore but beguiling and well received.