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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

Pianist Robert Schwartz

UNHURRIED COMMAND IN MENDO FESTIVAL RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 17, 2014

Pianist Robert Schwartz opened Mendocino Music Festival’s piano series July 17 with a set of works in a recital made for keyboard connoisseurs. His success was doubly gratifying for the artist as he had played on the same stage at last year’s Festival, but had to cancel most of the recital due to illness.

This year he began with Mozart’s challenging B-Flat Major Sonata, K. 570. It is a late work, full of contrapuntal interest, but his writer was unable to review the playing.

Closing the first half was a selection of six Mendelssohn Songs Without Words, taken from Ops. 19, 62 and 67. These short lyric works are in eight books, written throughout the composer’s lifetime, and need to sound as fresh as the day they were composed. Most have simple titles and Mr. Schwartz began with the A Major Song, “Confidence,” from Op. 19. Here as in the subsequent five he avoided extensive rubato and focused on structural details and the tonal beauty of each. The relaxed F-Sharp Major Song (Op. 67, No. 2, “Lost Illusions”) needed a quicker tempo but the following “May Breezes” and “Funeral March” received relaxed and subtle readings.

The concluding Allegro con Fuoco Song (“Departure,” Op. 62, No. 2) was boisterously played, appropriately loud and happy. The audience of 140 loved it.

Brahms’ Op. 5 Sonata closed the program, the granitic five-movement one in F Minor that is seldom played, especially at a summer festival. The artist's witty pre-performance remarks alluded to the need at this time in his life to climbing the Brahms mountain, and perhaps rekindling a long-ago interest since a student had brought the work to a recent lesson.

The sprawling first movement tempo was contemplative, the big bass chords rounded and plush. The closing fermata was extra long. Perhaps the best playing of the afternoon came in the Andante Espressivo where Mr. Schwartz caught the mercurial shifts in mood and pedaled deftly through phrase endings. There was a captivating pause before the coda, and not a sound came from the audience or the occasional outside Main Street motorcycle snarl.

Climaxes in the stormy Scherzo were built well and the finale (Allegro Moderato) had a strong march momentum and chaste playing of the lovely second theme. The pianist’s conception was packed with drama and there was no rush to get anywhere. Brahms under Mr. Schwartz’ fingers, feet and heart never hurries.

No encore was offered to the audience of 140.

Robert Schwartz doesn’t have powerhouse technical equipment, at least at this stage in his long career, but presents magnificent music in a serious and carefully crafted manner. Piano aficionados can ask for nothing more.