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Recital
DYNAMIC PIANISM IN YAKUSHEV MARIN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 23, 2022
Russian pianist Ilya Yakushev arrived Jan. 23 at his Mill Valley Chamber Music Society recital with the repute of playing loud and fast and delivering charming introductory musical remarks to his audience. He was true to form in Mill Valley’s Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church, preceding Haydn’s sple
Symphony
THE SHOW MUST GO ON
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 9, 2022
The Jan. 9 Santa Rosa Symphony concert was supposed to feature the world premiere of Gabriella Smith’s first symphony, but it ended up featuring another type of premiere: a concert that was conceived, rehearsed and performed in less than eight hours. Symphony staff learned on Sunday morning that so
Choral and Vocal
AN OLD FRIEND RETURNS TO WEILL IN STERLING ABS MESSIAH PERFORMANCE
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Sunday, December 19, 2021
A tremendous accomplishment by the American Bach Soloists Dec. 19 was near perfect performance of Handel's Messiah in Weill Hall. Long an annual tradition at San Francisco's Grace Cathedral, the ABS took to the road and delivered a Christmas gift of epic proportions to an obviously thrilled and enth
Symphony
SHOSTAKOVICH FIFTH THUNDERS AT WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 5, 2021
In a new season marketed as “Classical Reunion,” the Santa Rosa Symphony made a palpable connection with its audience at the early December set of three standing ovation concerts in Weill Hall. The December 5 concert, with 1,000 attending, is reviewed here. Vaughan Williams’ popular Fantasia on a T
Chamber
THE LINCOLN RETURNS WITH CLARKE'S PUNGENT TRIO
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, November 18, 2021
There were many familiar faces Nov. 18 during Music at Oakmont’s initial concert of the season, but perhaps the most necessary were the three musicians of the Lincoln Piano Trio, the Chicago-based group that has performed often in Oakmont since 2006. A smaller than unusual audience in Berger Audito
Symphony
NOSTALGIC BARBER KNOXVILLE AT SO CO PHIL JACKSON THEATER CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 14, 2021
In their first Jackson Theater appearance of the new season the Sonoma County Philharmonic presented Nov. 14 a program devoid of novelty, but showcasing the “People’s Orchestra” in splendid performance condition after a long COVID-related layoff. Conductor Norman Gamboa drew a committed and boister
Chamber
THRILLING PIANO QUINTETS IN MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 14, 2021
The Mill Valley Chamber Music Society sprang back to life on November 14 when a stellar ensemble from the Manhattan Chamber Players, a New York-based collective, arrived to perform two piano quintets: Vaughn-Williams’ in C Minor (1903), little known and rarely performed; and Schubert’s in A Major D.
Chamber
MUSCULAR BRAHMS FROM IVES COLLECTIVE IN GLASER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 14, 2021
Leaving SRJC’s Newman Auditorium for the first time in decades, the College’s Chamber Concert Series presented a season-opening concert Nov. 14 in Santa Rosa’s Glaser Center with the four-musician Bay-Area based Ives Collective. The season, the first given since 2020, is dedicated to Series Founder
Symphony
MONUMENTAL BRAHMS SYMPHONY HIGHLIGHTS MARIN SYMPHONY RETURN
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 7, 2021
In the waning COVID pandemic the Marin Symphony is one of the last Bay Area orchestras to return to the stage, and they did with considerable fanfare Nov. 7 before 1,200 in Civic Center Auditorium, with resident conductor Alasdair Neale leading a demanding concert of Brahms, Schumann and New York-ba
Symphony
APOLLO'S FIRE LIGHTS UP VIVALDI'S FOUR SEASONS IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 30, 2021
Long ago the Canadian violin virtuoso Gil Shaham played a program in Weill Hall of solo Bach, with a visual backdrop of slowly developing visuals, such as a pokey flower opening over four minutes. The Bach was sensational, and some in the audience liked the photos but many found them disconcerting,
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.