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by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 20, 2022
Symphony
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Recital
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Symphony
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Symphony
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Symphony
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by Abby Wasserman
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Choral and Vocal
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by Pamela Hicks Galley
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RECITAL REVIEW
Green Music Center / Friday, June 26, 2015
Natasha Paremski, piano; Malcolm Matthews, organ

Pianist Natasha Paremski

INTREPID VIRTUOSITY IN PAREMSKI'S BRAHMS VARIATIONS

by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 26, 2015

Sonoma County organist James Harrod contributed the organ work analysis in this review.

Pianist Natasha Paremski had the stellar role June 26 in the third Chamberfest program in Schroeder Hall, beginning with Beethoven’s A Flat Sonata, Op. 110. Classical Sonoma was unable to review the Sonata’s performance, said by many in the packed hall to be seminal and inspiring.

Following the Beethoven, organist Malcolm Matthews played three variations of the German Advent hymn “Now Comes the Savior of the Nations” (Nun komm der Heiden Heiland) by Bach on the Schroeder Hall Brombaugh tracker organ.

Mr. Matthews first played the hymn itself, quietly, with the melody sounding on the throaty Krummhorn reed stop of the Rückpositiv. Second, he played the familiar choral variation from “The Little Organ Book” (Das Orgelbüchlein), BWV 599. Last, he performed a far more intricate choral prelude on the same theme from the “18 Great Chorale Preludes,” BWV 661. In this variation, alternating motives are played with the hands on the great manual (Hauptwerk) while the melody is played with the feet using the powerful reed of the pedal division. Mr. Matthews performed each of these settings smoothly and serenely, suggesting intimate friendship with the music and with a clear, but subtle Baroque articulated touch. It was very nicely done.

Not to be outdone by an organist, Ms. Paremski played the Bach-Busoni version of Nun komm der Heiden Heiland later in the program. This was played reverently and sensitively and was very satisfying to hear.

Also performed was an unusual arrangement for piano and organ of three familiar choral preludes from Brahms’ “Eleven Chorale Preludes for the Organ,” Op. 122. The music was divided into fragments in dialogue between the two instruments, almost a “question and answer” format with a postlude character. The result had some lovely moments but not a lasting effect. A video camera and screen in the organ loft depicted the organist’s hands at the two-manual instrument.

Concluding the afternoon and clearly the concert’s highlight was Brahms’ Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Handel, Op. 24. Written in 1862, the Handel Variations (along with sets by Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Reger’s Bach and Telemann Variations) is the greatest work of the type in the repertoire.

Natasha Paremski has made significant changes in her playing since her last Sonoma County appearance in 2012. Still present are the easy virtuosity, big tone and often insouciant in platform manner, but she has added greater control of a large work’s structure and a bevy of interesting inner voices. The pianist began with long trills in the theme and played in a subdued manner until the second Variation, the first time in the piece that it sounds like Brahms. Variation contrast was abundant, and Ms. Paremski underscored this not only by dynamic contrast but also by either slight pauses between the variations or deftly connecting them with the damper pedal in an enharmonic modulation.

As each Variation unfolded Ms. Paremski adopted various touches that gave individuality, even with continual booming sforzandos and in Variation 25 a tempo that almost pushed the music off the rails. Almost. She did not double the left hand B-Flat octave before beginning the fugue, heard in the great recordings of Petri and Solomon. The famous 108-bar fugue was played majestically, intermingling fugal and developmental techniques to produce a weighty resonance, aided by the piano’s massive sonority in the small Schroeder Hall’s acoustically impeccable space.

The performance was easily the finest North Bay Brahms-Handel in memory, and drew a roaring ovation that brought the artist to the front of the stage, holding her right hand to her heart in acknowledgement of the acclaim.