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Symphony
THE SHOW MUST GO ON
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 9, 2022
The Jan. 9 Santa Rosa Symphony concert was supposed to feature the world premiere of Gabriella Smith’s first symphony, but it ended up featuring another type of premiere: a concert that was conceived, rehearsed and performed in less than eight hours. Symphony staff learned on Sunday morning that so
Choral and Vocal
AN OLD FRIEND RETURNS TO WEILL IN STERLING ABS MESSIAH PERFORMANCE
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Sunday, December 19, 2021
A tremendous accomplishment by the American Bach Soloists Dec. 19 was near perfect performance of Handel's Messiah in Weill Hall. Long an annual tradition at San Francisco's Grace Cathedral, the ABS took to the road and delivered a Christmas gift of epic proportions to an obviously thrilled and enth
Symphony
SHOSTAKOVICH FIFTH THUNDERS AT WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 5, 2021
In a new season marketed as “Classical Reunion,” the Santa Rosa Symphony made a palpable connection with its audience at the early December set of three standing ovation concerts in Weill Hall. The December 5 concert, with 1,000 attending, is reviewed here. Vaughan Williams’ popular Fantasia on a T
Chamber
THE LINCOLN RETURNS WITH CLARKE'S PUNGENT TRIO
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, November 18, 2021
There were many familiar faces Nov. 18 during Music at Oakmont’s initial concert of the season, but perhaps the most necessary were the three musicians of the Lincoln Piano Trio, the Chicago-based group that has performed often in Oakmont since 2006. A smaller than unusual audience in Berger Audito
Symphony
NOSTALGIC BARBER KNOXVILLE AT SO CO PHIL JACKSON THEATER CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 14, 2021
In their first Jackson Theater appearance of the new season the Sonoma County Philharmonic presented Nov. 14 a program devoid of novelty, but showcasing the “People’s Orchestra” in splendid performance condition after a long COVID-related layoff. Conductor Norman Gamboa drew a committed and boister
Chamber
THRILLING PIANO QUINTETS IN MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 14, 2021
The Mill Valley Chamber Music Society sprang back to life on November 14 when a stellar ensemble from the Manhattan Chamber Players, a New York-based collective, arrived to perform two piano quintets: Vaughn-Williams’ in C Minor (1903), little known and rarely performed; and Schubert’s in A Major D.
Chamber
MUSCULAR BRAHMS FROM IVES COLLECTIVE IN GLASER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 14, 2021
Leaving SRJC’s Newman Auditorium for the first time in decades, the College’s Chamber Concert Series presented a season-opening concert Nov. 14 in Santa Rosa’s Glaser Center with the four-musician Bay-Area based Ives Collective. The season, the first given since 2020, is dedicated to Series Founder
Symphony
MONUMENTAL BRAHMS SYMPHONY HIGHLIGHTS MARIN SYMPHONY RETURN
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 7, 2021
In the waning COVID pandemic the Marin Symphony is one of the last Bay Area orchestras to return to the stage, and they did with considerable fanfare Nov. 7 before 1,200 in Civic Center Auditorium, with resident conductor Alasdair Neale leading a demanding concert of Brahms, Schumann and New York-ba
Symphony
APOLLO'S FIRE LIGHTS UP VIVALDI'S FOUR SEASONS IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 30, 2021
Long ago the Canadian violin virtuoso Gil Shaham played a program in Weill Hall of solo Bach, with a visual backdrop of slowly developing visuals, such as a pokey flower opening over four minutes. The Bach was sensational, and some in the audience liked the photos but many found them disconcerting,
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 REVIEW
MasterCard Performance Series / Saturday, September 21, 2013
Itzhak Perlman, violin. Rohan De Silva, piano

Violinist Itzhak Perlman

ITZHAK PERLMAN: HIGH VOLTAGE VIRTUOSO

by Steve Osborn
Saturday, September 21, 2013

Weill Hall at the Green Music Center in Rohnert Park is actually two halls: one inside the graceful building and one outside on the amphitheater-shaped lawn. The two connect at the back of the hall, where giant panels can be slid open to bring the outdoors in and the indoors out.

Perhaps the best view of this dual identity is to be had from the "choral circle," two or more rows of seats that encircle the sides and front of the hall. The seats on the sides face forward, so you can pan back and forth between the lawn and the stage, as if watching a tennis match.

This dual identity is visually striking, but it does lead to an important sonic challenge: how to transmit the sound outside while preserving the acoustics within. The answer at this point seems to be amplification in both spaces, as was made abundantly clear in the opening notes of Itzhak Perlman's Sept. 21 recital at Weill. For the first few bars of the opening piece, Beethoven's Violin Sonata No. 1, the sound of the violin within the hall rang out impossibly loud. The culprit was a discrete black microphone positioned a few feet in front of Perlman, who was seated in an electric wheelchair. A few seconds later, a hidden technician turned down the volume, and the violin assumed a more normal acoustic relationship with the piano, which was also miked.

For the purists in the audience, the illusion of unadulterated sound was shattered, but some acoustic compromises seem inevitable, given the nature of the space. In any event, Perlman's playing soon put all those issues to rest. He would be just as beguiling on an electric violin as on a Stradivarius.

All his fundamental qualities were on display in the Beethoven: a muscular sound marked by extreme fluidity, exquisite bowing, nearly perfect intonation, well-controlled dynamics and maximum expression. His many runs up and down the fingerboard were flawless, played as gently as the breeze wafting in from the lawn.

In the slow second movement of the Beethoven, a classic theme and variations, Perlman let the tune ring out and then made each variation utterly distinctive, from strident to sweet to majestic. His able accompanist, Rohan De Silva, led off the third movement vivaciously, striking the unexpected sforzandi to dramatic effect. Perlman echoed those surprises, then added some of his own, imbuing Beethoven's sonata with great narrative urgency.

That same sense of a master storyteller emerged in the next work, Grieg's Violin Sonata No. 3, his last and most popular sonata. This uber-Romantic work is just a few notes shy of being a full-blown concerto, particularly in the last movement, with its familiar call-and-response format. The opening movement has a strong sense of foreboding, with a repeated seven-note phrase punctuating the texture like an insistent Morse code. Perlman's bowing for this phrase was incredibly supple, shifting seamlessly from long notes to staccato bursts.

The dreamlike second movement, with its slow, heartbreaking melody, set the stage for the rollicking finale, replete with folk dances and virtuosic displays. Perlman really inhabited the sonata, displaying supreme confidence throughout its performance.

With those two full-fledged sonatas under his belt, Perlman opened the second half of the show with Kreisler's arrangement of Baroque composer Tartini's "Devil's Trill" sonata. The arrangement probably makes historically informed performers cringe, but it's a lot of fun, with incessant double-stops, portamento galore, and the obsessive finger-twisting trills of the title. By the climax, the melody is buried beneath such a thick layer of trills that the violin sounds like an entire orchestra.

Perlman followed the Tartini-Kreisler with two more Kreisler arrangements of obscure Baroque and Classical composers, first from Giovanni Martini and then from Francois Francoeur, whom he described as a "legend in his own home." Both were sonic baubles based on simple melodies.

Next came Tchaikovsky's "Chanson sans parole," which Perlman joked had been written for a friend of the composer's stuck in prison. This was somewhat meatier musically, with a charming lyric theme and some effective harmonics at the end. A Caprice by Henryk Wieniawski followed, again arranged by Kreisler, this time with bowing so rapid that Perlman's wrist fluttered like a bird's wing.

The program proper concluded with Brahms' "Hungarian Dance No. 1," as arranged by Joachim. Here Perlman set a furious pace with lots of rubato and some upper-position work that got a little dodgy toward the end. The encore, after thunderous applause, was Antonio Bazzini's "Dance of the Goblins," a showpiece to end all showpieces. The technical demands are almost beyond belief, but Perlman appeared unfazed as his fingers flew across the violin, each one apparently in several places at once. It would have been electrifying even without the microphone.

[Reprinted by permission of San Francisco Classical Voice.]