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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...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
MasterCard Performance Series / Saturday, October 12, 2013
Garrick Ohlsson, piano

Pianist Garrick Ohlsson

VENTURING INTO THE UNKNOWN

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 12, 2013

Along with pianist Garrick Ohlsson's formidable technique and artistry, curiosity has been a hallmark of his long career. Though playing the conventional repertoire superbly, he constantly ventures into unknown corners of piano music.

The centerpiece of his Oct. 12 recital at Weill Hall in Rohnert Park was the seldom-heard Liszt work Ad Nos, Ad Salutarem Unam, written for organ in 1852 and transcribed for piano in 1897 by Busoni. In 23 minutes, Liszt (or should it be Busoni?) builds a massive structure that tested the sonic extremes of the hall's new piano. Mr. Ohlsson began the work's questioning and solemn first theme with care and perfect chordal weighting, and the clarity of lines in an occasionally clangorous sonic mix was exemplary. The playing was mostly orchestral for nearly 13 minutes, then the sun came out in a lovely chorale that points to Liszt's daring late-period harmonies. It's easy in this work to make too many tempo modifications, but Mr. Ohlsson adopted a rock-solid pace, even when building rock-splitting sonorities.

The fugue began judiciously and was carried in short passages until a thunderous conclusion. Also admirable were the lengthy right-hand scale runs and scintillating parallel octaves. The Ad Nos demands stamina as well as technical brilliance, and Mr. Ohlsson had ample amounts of both. A standing ovation followed the final chord, with some in the audience seeming dazed by what they had heard.

Was the rest of the program thrown into the shade by this prodigious performance? Not really, although the six Debussy studies that began the second half sounded a little prosaic. The selections from Book I exploit wildly contrasting moods. Mr. Ohlsson lavished here his considerable beauty of timbre and control of technical details, such as colorful glissandi, will-of-the-wisp passages and rapid chords in pesky close-hand positions. He has very large hands but manages to solve with apparent ease Debussy's most intricate figurations. The third selection in double fourths, Pour les Quartes, had a perfect impressionistic legato and was almost lapidary in execution.

The first half began with Brahms' B Minor and G Minor Op. 79 Rhapsodies, and the recital finished with Chopin's F Minor Fantasy, Op. 49. Both Brahms were big-boned readings, wonderfully bass-heavy with deft left-hand crossover passages capturing the turbulent character of the first and the fatalistic and extroverted character of the second. It was echt Brahms for the connoisseur.

I have heard Mr. Ohlsson's rendition of the Chopin Fantasy several times, but this performance was the most inspired and interesting. He began pensively with deft touches, including three extended fermatas and subtly rolled left-hand chords. The lyricism appeared in the first of three main theme repetitions where the contrary octave playing was resounding and accurate. The chaste chorale section was delicately played, but the final version of the march was treated to an unexpected accelerando leading to a bravura and passionate ending.

Two encores satisfied the happy crowd of 900, beginning with the aristocratic C-Sharp Minor Chopin Waltz from Op. 64. Mr. Ohlsson had fun with this work, making wily rhythmic alterations at each returning theme and stressing the languorous nature of the piece until the end, when speed and delicacy prevailed. It's hard to play very fast and also softly, but it's outwardly child's play for Mr. Ohlsson. A volcanic performance of Rachmaninoff's ever-popular C-Sharp Minor Prelude closed the recital, with playing as individual and convincing as all that had come before.