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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

Pianist Rudolf Budginas

COMEDY WITHOUT RELIEF

by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 9, 2012

Getting noticed in the classical piano world is a daunting task. With an avalanche of young artists, each seeming to play the Ligeti Etudes or the Liszt Sonata while texting a friend, novelty is an important part of getting audiences and having concertgoers pay attention to you.

Santa Rosa Junior College faculty pianist Rudolf Budginas has developed a unique parody of the formal piano recital, and he presented it Nov. 9 in the College’s Newman Auditorium before a packed house of titillated and bemused listeners. His production and antics were new to me, but the tipoff was that the program sheet didn’t list specific musical works. Bach was listed as a “Prelude” and Chopin as “Revolutionary.” Clearly Mr. Budginas was going to do his will with their music. He eventually did so with aplomb and a stage presence that puts Lang Lang, Oscar Levant, Victor Borge and George Antheil to shame.

Mr. Budginas’ entertainment is balanced and deceptively delivered in an offhand manner, interspersed with bits of pieces he has chosen for humorous effects to illustrate his verbal commentary. He rarely plays a piece all the way through, preferring to take a work like Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and play it at the keyboard with a bongo drum set and cymbals in a knockoff of Turkish composer Fazil Say’s “Black Earth.” The comments he made before every piece ranged from the educational to the childish and the musically slanderous. For some listeners, the effect quickly wore thin.

Adding to Mr. Budginas’ pianistic efforts was a two-minute harmonica solo of his own variations on the theme from Haydn’s “Surprise” Symphony, with copious physical gyrations. He also made repeated fatuous comments about his native country (Lithuania) and opined that Beethoven had trouble writing themes. People laughed and wanted more. Mr. Budginas loves an audience, and this night they definitely loved him.

All this would be peripheral if Mr. Budginas could seriously interpret important music. Alas, he cannot and he isn’t a pianist who rises above the mundane. He began the recital with Chopin’s C Minor Etude from Op. 10 (Revolutionary), a surprising work to start with, and overpedaled the whole piece, sacrificing clarity. In Beethoven’s Op. 31 D Minor Sonata (Tempest), he played only the last movement, all too loud, with stodgy phrasing and a lack of rhythmic subtlety and grace. He eschewed tonal color and never parked his left foot on the shift pedal to generate instrumental shadings and subtlety.

Next Mr. Budginas coyly chose the initial C Major Prelude from Bach’s “Well-Tempered Clavier.” He started with a rock-solid tempo and tonal richness that quickly collapsed when he skipped into some jazz variations. There was no nod to a ritard at the piece’s most memorable point. Instead, he just plowed ahead. An “Ave Maria” by Caccini followed, played in a saccharine manner with gauche New Age flourishes and harmonies.

The first half ended when Mr. Budginas went into battle with Liszt’s Sixth Hungarian Rhapsody in D Flat. He skipped the entire introduction and began this wonderful work towards the recapitulation, with the famous and demanding single-note and octave repetitions. He could not technically maintain the tempo, finger staccato and control this music needs, so he slowed everything down, again omitting sections of the music in order to hammer a bombastic conclusion in a tasteless display. The audience, happily sprinkled with students and College staff, gave him a standing ovation.

For presumably many reasons a number of people left at intermission, including this reviewer, and what Mr. Budginas did in the second part with Tchaikovsky (announced on the program as “Black Swan”) and the music of Brubeck, Glass, Gershwin and Schubert must be conjectural. That the pianist is a delightful actor in his craft of comic audience arousal and provocative musical snippets is indisputable. But for music-making of passionate elegance, majesty and refinement, this concert had little to offer.