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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...
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.