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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...
RECITAL REVIEW
Mendocino Music Festival / Saturday, July 16, 2016
Christopher Atzinger, piano

Pianist Christopher Atzinger

BALANCED VIRTUOSITY IN ATZINGER MMF RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 16, 2016

Pianist Christopher Atzinger’s Mendocino Music Festival recital July 16 in the small Preston Hall looked formidable on paper larded with what might be said to be “non festival, non summer” music.

There were no light Gershwin or Schubert dance works, and for some the six pieces from Brahms’ Op. 118 are winter compositions that need ample cold, rain and fog. However, the Minnesota-based pianist paid no attention to this pedantry and played an echt 118, with the opening Intermezzo full of sweep and drama, followed by the subtle rhythms of the Intermezzo in A. A highlight was the E-Flat final Intermezzo where he captured the mournful mystery of the work but his formidible pedal technique occasionally blurred the surging left hand line. A spot in the sun.

The center of the afternoon’s program was the last work, Barber’s massive Sonata (Op. 26) from 1949. The performance clocked in at just over 20 minutes, slower than the seminal Browning recording and much slower than the pyrotechnical Horowitz version. But the piece needs the “air” that Mr. Atzinger provided to allow the lyricism to penetrate the many Fortissimo sections, especially in the opening Allegro. Adopting a furious pace in the skittish Vivace Mr. Atzinger easily moved into a ravishing reading of the Adagio, playing often the bell-like bass notes in pedal point and with a natural rise and fall of phrase.

In a period of pause he seemed to gird himself to do battle with the final movement’s dissonant and complex fugue, and he conquered it. Clarity of voices is critical here, not easy to do with the volcanic bass chords, but all went to a thrilling and thunderous conclusion. The interpretation and virtuosity in the Barber were among the best I have ever heard.

The nearly full Preston audience responded with an ovation, and Mr. Atzinger played one encore, a new-age bagatelle where inane up and down progressions seemed fatuous after the magisterial Barber.

This one lapse in taste never pervaded the recital’s other performances of Mozart’s B Flat Sonata (K. 570) and Chopin’s F Minor Fantaisie, Op. 49. The Mozart was especially good with judicious tempos and a warm tone from the mellow house piano. Mr. Atzinger played three cultivated ritards in the opening Allegro that demonstrated that he was not bound to a strict classical interpretation, and the following Adagio his control of gradations of sound and several novel “turn” figurations were superb. The Allegretto featured contrapuntal lines and spicy accented dissonances, understated but always telling.

The Chopin Fantaisie received a performance heavy on vocal statements, as the best Chopin always should. The famous heroic second theme was played with ardor and care, and the march sections at a fast clip. Changing gears, Mr. Atzinger played the Choral part with an unusual differentiation of voices, the main theme’s repeat quite fast and in a romantic gesture held the damper pedal lovingly before the three last phrases.

Leading to intermission was a Toccata from Canadian composer Pierre Jalbert, composed in 2001 and sounding like a required piano competition piece. But it was no less interesting for that, and though clamorous at times it had whiffs of the Ligeti Etudes. Mr. Atzinger’s command of left-hand block chords mixed with swirls of ringing right-hand notes was intoxicating.