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SIX GUITARISTS IN UNIQUE NAPA RECITAL
by Gary Digman
Sunday, July 25, 2021
The first Napa Valley Guitar Festival was held at Napa’s First Presbyterian Church July 25, and featured performances from six classical guitarists. The Church is an iconic structure in downtown Napa, its huge white presence dominating the scene, and the white theme continues inside punctuated by be
Chamber
CLARA SCHUMANN TRIO COMMANDS VOM CHAMBER MUSIC CONCERT AT HANNA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 24, 2021
The Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Series has begun several virtual and a few live concerts in its new seventh season, some broadcast from Sonoma’s Hanna Center Hall and some in posh local venues. July 24’s video had a small live audience and a well-produced video program of three works. Titled “
Chamber
EXEMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MENDO FESTIVAL FT. BRAGG CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Faced with the impossibility of presenting concerts in the iconic large white tent on the bluff, the Mendocino Music Festival opted to use Ft. Bragg’s Cotton Auditorium for ten events in the abbreviated 35th season. San Francisco’s Alexander String Quartet played July 21 to a fully masked audience
Chamber
ECLECTIC PROGRAMMING AT PIANOSONOMA CONCERT IN SCHROEDER HALL
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Tuesday, July 20, 2021
After a dark year bereft of live performance, pianoSonoma launched July 20 the first Vino & Vibrato concert of the 2021 season in Sonoma State's Schroeder Hall, albeit sadly senza vino due to Covid protocols. Three exceptional musicians showered the audience with an interesting variety of pia
Chamber
RARELY-PLAYED SCHUMANN HIGHLIGHTS HEALDSBURG RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 10, 2021
Brave New Music sporadically produces concerts in and around Healdsburg, and July 10’s violin recital in downtown St. Paul’s Church must have been one of the first post-lockdown, post-be-extra-careful classical music concerts in Sonoma County's summer season. New Music Founder Gary McLaughlin with
Chamber
ECHOS ON A WARM SUMMER NIGHT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, July 10, 2021
ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s first concert in a year and a half, “A Musical Promenade,” was a promenade indeed. When patrons arrived at San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for the 6:00 performance July 10, they were funneled through the garden to the Duncan Hall patio, where folding chairs were set
Chamber
LONG DISTANCE LOVE BEGINS VOM SUMMER FESTIVAL
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Thursday, June 24, 2021
The Valley of the Moon Music Festival offered a 7th season preview June 24 with a stunning online concert, aptly named Long Distance Love, featuring inspired performances of Beethoven's short song cycle An die ferne Geliebte,, and selections from Brahms’ beloved Liebeslieder Wal
Recital
ROMERO'S ARTISTRY IN SLV RECITAL PROGRAMMING AND PERFORMANCE
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 2, 2021
Gustavo Romero has been an admired visitor to North Bay stages, playing over a decade recitals at Dominican University, the Music at Oakmont concerts and at the Spring Lake Village Concert Series. He returned June 2 to SLV in a virtual recital, videoed from his home concert hall the University of N
RUBICON'S VIRTUAL CONCERT A MALANGE OF CONTRASTS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, May 16, 2021
The inaugural concert of a new Mendocino County chamber group is a reason for celebration, and the Rubicon Trio made the most of a mixed musical menu during a May16 virtual concert. Presented by the Ukiah Symphony Orchestra as the last in their “Salons with the Symphony” Series, the Rubicon began w
Recital
PIANO VIRTUOSITY IN YAKUSHEV'S REDWOOD ARTS RECITAL
by Nicki Bell
Sunday, May 16, 2021
Russian pianist Ilya Yakushev’s recital for the Redwood Arts Council was perhaps the local season’s virtual music at the greatest distance, as the filming May 16 came from a church in St. Petersburg. And good filming it was, with multiple camera viewpoints of the church, full and split screens and
CHAMBER REVIEW

Elena Casanova

CASANOVA'S LISZT AND GINASTERA THRILL LARGE UKIAH AUDIENCE

by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 7, 2008

The proverbial “no person is a hero in their own backyard” was certainly false Nov. 2 when pianist Elena Casanova attracted the largest solo classical audience in memory to her Mendocino College recital, launching the sixth Concerts Grand season.

Before 210 partisans in Center Theater, Casanova tackled an eclectic program centered on Beethoven and Latin music, with a quick side trip for two dreamy Liszt works. The Third Consolation, performed before the Third Liebestraume, brought from Casanova some of the best playing of the afternoon – note perfect, deftly phrased and rich with color. An adroit arpeggio at bar 55 delicately disclosed Liszt’s tasteful dissonance, and the ritards were substantial enough to almost break the musical line. Almost, but not quite.

Beethoven’s “Paisiello” Variations began the program, inauspiciously both because of some tentative passages and the ephemeral nature of the writing. The theme and six short variations are quickly forgotten, far removed from the great “Eroica” and “Diabelli” sets. Not so of course for the ever-popular F Minor Sonata, Op. 57 (Appassionata) which received a careful but committed reading. Casanova was never in any hurry to get anywhere, shedding light on the dramatic qualities of the opening Allegro assai, and managing well the difficult articulation problems in the second part of the second subject. This was not an Appassionata of heroic proportions, but one well thought out and played with rhythmic certainty. The fortissimo 13 chords that begin the finale were curiously played softly, with a slight crescendo at the end, defying the score but producing an engaging effect. The movement didn’t end with the expected full-throttle roar, but the high “Cs” in the right hand sounded with the requisite power, and the large gathering was immediately on its feet to cheer.

Three short Lecuona pieces began the second half, preceded by comments from the pianist. Malaguena, the best known (the others were Andalucia and Gitanerias) had the expected rhythmic subtlety, and the pianism was secure and idiomatic. The same can be said of Casanova’s transversal of Ginastera’s Danzas Argentinas, Op. 2, composed in 1937. These are energetic works, the concluding Danza del Gaucho Matrero having the most pianistic fireworks of the afternoon, with handfuls of skips, long glissandos and off-beat accents. It was a tour de force, and Casanova was brought back to the stage several times, relenting with one encore. Like the other Latin works on the program, the “La Bella Cubana” of Afro-Cuban composer Jose White was receiving a rare hearing in Ukiah, and Casanova played the lovely habanera with just the right mixture of flexible pulse and sensuous languor.

Elena Casanova is one of Mendocino County’s best musicians, equally at home with Liszt’s “Dreams of Love” and the piquant excitement of Ginastera’s Argentine Pampa.

The concert was recorded and filmed, something seemingly fitting for a genuine local hero.

N. B. - the writer is the Producer of the Concerts Grand series.