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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
Mastercard Performance Series / Saturday, March 7, 2015
Murray Perahia, piano

Pianist Murray Perahia

PERAHIA'S INTENSITY SHINES IN WEILL HALL RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, March 7, 2015

Murray Perahia has built a long pianistic career based on performances of discernment, classical structure and impeccable taste. His playing always exudes a refinement and lapidary attention to musical detail. And so it was in his March 7 Weill Hall debut recital before an audience of 900, with a conventional program of balanced and celebrated works.

Opening the evening Bach’s 6th French Suite (BWV. 817) received a reading emphasizing careful dynamic control, fast tempos in the Courante and Bourrée, intriguing embellishments and much half pedal. In Weill piano concerts with a less-than-full house, fast tempos, diminished volume and legato playing can pose clarity difficulties. And Mr. Perahia’s Bach and the Beethoven “Les Adieux” Sonata that closed the first half, especially in Le Retour, displayed a lack of textural clarity in the fleet sections with large resonance.

This is not to say that the pianist played the Op. 81a Sonata routinely, a piece he has lived with for decades. The Andante Espressivo L’Absence had the requisite sprightly tempo, lovely tone colors and patrician phrasing, and surprisingly in the finale there were doubled left-hand bass chords and brusque sforzandos. The music always had intensity and prismatic tints that shone resplendidly.

New York Times critic Harold Schonberg described Mr. Perahia’s pianism, after honoring the note-perfect mastery and serious musicianship, as in many big works “overly polite.” If that observation was accurate, and I think it was, things have certainly changed, as in Franck’s Prelude, Choral and Finale that opened the second half. In each of the program’s works, save for Haydn’s fleet A-Flat Major Sonata, smudged notes popped up but never affected the music’s impetus or in the Franck the course of the big single melodic idea. The playing captured the piece’s Romantic mystical nature and the Bach references in the Fugue. There were unexpected inner voices and just a little ferocity in the Choral, the focal point of the 1884 piece, a specialty of the late Jorge Bolet.

Chopin’s B Minor Scherzo ended the program. Here Mr. Perahia used big dynamic contrasts to give variety to the many repeats (I have always thought the cut version more effective) and though he eschewed big sonority he seized the Scherzo’s restless momentum and histrionics. The fiery coda went off the tracks in the final tumultuous upward run but the audience rightly loved it and responded with a prolonged standing ovation.

Chopin’s F Major Nocturne from Op. 15 was the first encore, and the playing was curiously lacking in subtle rubatos and had monochromatic tone color. The tranquil cantilena and strong left hand in the turbulent middle section were admirable. Speed returned to buffet clarity in the last encore, Schumann’s Traumes Wirren from the Op. 12 Fantasiestücke. Since these “dreams” are skittish, finger velocity is a necessity, and Mr. Perahia provided it but without transparent control at the highest level of technique.

The pianist’s connection with Weill’s audience was formal and unassuming (minimal bows, austere facial expression) that in some ways reflected his cultivated and assured artistry.