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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....
CHAMBER REVIEW

ULYANOVA WINS THEM OVER

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, November 20, 2008

A pianist planning a West Coast debut recital in front of a fashionable and cosmopolitan audience faces a daunting prospect, especially when playing virtuoso works familiar to all. Ukrainian pianist Elena Ulyanova surmounted most of these obstacles Nov. 14 with formidable energy at Tiburon’s St. Hilary Church. The event was the second Concerts Grand recital of the year and part of the wildly popular classical series produced by St. Hilary Music Director Vince Stadlin and Cantor Kenneth Graham.

Fresh from recitals in Chicago and Washington DC, Ulyanova began briskly with Soler’s Sonata in D (R. 84), a work which, though effective, reminds one that everything Padre Soler wrote was done much better by Scarlatti, and with more humor by Haydn. Another matter was Beethoven’s Sonata in F, Op. 57 (Appassionata), a driving and dramatic odyssey that allowed Ulyanova full rein in displaying her cross-hand and fast scale technique. As throughout the evening, she chose fast tempos that often blurred the thematic lines and compromised the lyricism. But this is a “go for broke” piece and was not the least underplayed, with Ulyanova pushing lines and suppressing voice leadings to accentuate the excitement. It was a performance quite different from the recent Elena Casanova Appassionata rendition in Ukiah. Both readings were idiomatic and widely diverse in coloristic effects and weight.

The first half closed with the Andante Spianato and Grand Polonaise Brillante in E Flat, Op. 22, an early Chopin work that virtuosos such as Hofmann and Horowitz made famous. The performance was relaxed and architecturally tight, and the poetic Andante was carefully phrased and assured. Rhythms in a Chopin polonaise are tricky to project, especially when played in a sprightly manner, and Ulyanova on this recital decided that rhythmic nuance was subordinate to lyrical momentum. Her concluding cascade of scale passages was effective at full pedal, and she ended with five triumphant E Flat unison chords.

Two Debussy Preludes began the second half, Brouillards and Ondine. Both had the right atmosphere but continued the inclination to fast tempos. This absolute French music is as much about the silences as the actual notes. One longed for other Debussy works to display Ulyanova’s staccato touch, perhaps “La Danse de Puck” or “La Puerta del Vino.”

Two Rachmaninoff selections closed the program, the first the short and dreamy Prelude (in G, Op. 32) and the second the volcanic Second Sonata in B Flat, Op. 36. Ulyanova’s fleet approach was ill-suited to the nostalgic Prelude, the playing of which can evoke memories of cold Russian nights and moonlit snow. Here it sounded like playing in a piano studio, uninvolved, the last three chaste chords played unadorned with no retard or diminuendo.

Any uncertainty about Ulyanova’s command of Rachmaninoff’s bravura was swept away with an orchestral performance of the great Sonata, in the Horowitz edition. The first movement opened with resounding chords in the bass, getting more sound from the house Baldwin concert grand than regular St. Hilary parishioners could remember. The middle movement Non Allegro had the requisite songfulness, though again with a tendency to the perfunctory. The finale brought out all of the pianist’s heavy artillery – massive broken octaves, endurance, wide skips and brilliant passage work. The individual parts of the sonata often seem greater than the whole, but Ulyanova brought opulent passion that conquered all. Nothing was left on the table.

Following the bagatelle of a Scarlatti encore, the audience proceeded to the lavish Parish Hall for a splendid buffet prepared by the church staff, and more piano playing, albeit with less serious repertoire, from Ken Iisaka, Gini Wilson, Kenn Gartner, Elizabeth MacDougall, David Caldine, Elena Casanova and the effervescent St. Hilary Pastor, Fr. James Tarantino.

Note: The reviewer is the producer of Concerts Grand series.