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SIX GUITARISTS IN UNIQUE NAPA RECITAL
by Gary Digman
Sunday, July 25, 2021
The first Napa Valley Guitar Festival was held at Napa’s First Presbyterian Church July 25, and featured performances from six classical guitarists. The Church is an iconic structure in downtown Napa, its huge white presence dominating the scene, and the white theme continues inside punctuated by be
Chamber
CLARA SCHUMANN TRIO COMMANDS VOM CHAMBER MUSIC CONCERT AT HANNA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 24, 2021
The Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Series has begun several virtual and a few live concerts in its new seventh season, some broadcast from Sonoma’s Hanna Center Hall and some in posh local venues. July 24’s video had a small live audience and a well-produced video program of three works. Titled “
Chamber
EXEMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MENDO FESTIVAL FT. BRAGG CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Faced with the impossibility of presenting concerts in the iconic large white tent on the bluff, the Mendocino Music Festival opted to use Ft. Bragg’s Cotton Auditorium for ten events in the abbreviated 35th season. San Francisco’s Alexander String Quartet played July 21 to a fully masked audience
Chamber
ECLECTIC PROGRAMMING AT PIANOSONOMA CONCERT IN SCHROEDER HALL
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Tuesday, July 20, 2021
After a dark year bereft of live performance, pianoSonoma launched July 20 the first Vino & Vibrato concert of the 2021 season in Sonoma State's Schroeder Hall, albeit sadly senza vino due to Covid protocols. Three exceptional musicians showered the audience with an interesting variety of pia
Chamber
RARELY-PLAYED SCHUMANN HIGHLIGHTS HEALDSBURG RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 10, 2021
Brave New Music sporadically produces concerts in and around Healdsburg, and July 10’s violin recital in downtown St. Paul’s Church must have been one of the first post-lockdown, post-be-extra-careful classical music concerts in Sonoma County's summer season. New Music Founder Gary McLaughlin with
Chamber
ECHOS ON A WARM SUMMER NIGHT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, July 10, 2021
ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s first concert in a year and a half, “A Musical Promenade,” was a promenade indeed. When patrons arrived at San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for the 6:00 performance July 10, they were funneled through the garden to the Duncan Hall patio, where folding chairs were set
Chamber
LONG DISTANCE LOVE BEGINS VOM SUMMER FESTIVAL
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Thursday, June 24, 2021
The Valley of the Moon Music Festival offered a 7th season preview June 24 with a stunning online concert, aptly named Long Distance Love, featuring inspired performances of Beethoven's short song cycle An die ferne Geliebte,, and selections from Brahms’ beloved Liebeslieder Wal
Recital
ROMERO'S ARTISTRY IN SLV RECITAL PROGRAMMING AND PERFORMANCE
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 2, 2021
Gustavo Romero has been an admired visitor to North Bay stages, playing over a decade recitals at Dominican University, the Music at Oakmont concerts and at the Spring Lake Village Concert Series. He returned June 2 to SLV in a virtual recital, videoed from his home concert hall the University of N
RUBICON'S VIRTUAL CONCERT A MALANGE OF CONTRASTS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, May 16, 2021
The inaugural concert of a new Mendocino County chamber group is a reason for celebration, and the Rubicon Trio made the most of a mixed musical menu during a May16 virtual concert. Presented by the Ukiah Symphony Orchestra as the last in their “Salons with the Symphony” Series, the Rubicon began w
Recital
PIANO VIRTUOSITY IN YAKUSHEV'S REDWOOD ARTS RECITAL
by Nicki Bell
Sunday, May 16, 2021
Russian pianist Ilya Yakushev’s recital for the Redwood Arts Council was perhaps the local season’s virtual music at the greatest distance, as the filming May 16 came from a church in St. Petersburg. And good filming it was, with multiple camera viewpoints of the church, full and split screens and
RECITAL REVIEW

N. Znaider and R. Kulek Feb. 2 in Weill Hall (JCM Photo)

ZNAIDER-KULEK DUO CHARMS AND CHALLANGES WEILL AUDIENCE FEB. 2

by Terry McNeill
Friday, February 2, 2018

Weill hall has mounted several exceptional piano recitals, with Garrick Ohlsson’s titanic Liszt concert, and of course Lang Lang’s two insouciant but also compelling performances topping the list since 2013.

But arguably the virtuoso violinists have on balance been more impressive, and thoughts go back to memorable nights from Gil Shaham’s six Bach works, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Christian Tetzlaff, Yu-Chien Tsong, David McCarroll, Alexei Kenny, Benjamin Bielman, Caroline Goulding, Vadim Repin, Sarah Chang and Itzhak Perlman, each reviewed at Classical Sonoma. So it was for Nikolaj Znaider’s Feb. 2 recital with the exemplary pianist Robert Kulek.

Mr. Znaider established an immediate rapport with the audience of 250, chatting about the weather, leaning down from the stage to offer a lozenge from his pocket to a coughing fan, and charmingly excusing a woman that fled with hall with a cell phone blaring.

Musical matters began with a beautifully balanced performance of Beethoven’s G Major Sonata, Op. 30, No. 3. It’s easy to overplay this charming work, even with the selected brisk opening tempo, but the duo never fell into this error. As throughout the evening Mr. Znaider’s impressive control of pianissimo blended well with the pianist, with the latter’s piquant sforzandos and dry arpeggios. Here Mr. Znaider did not show a rich tone, and with minimal vibrato it wasn’t needed. The light touch continued through the tempo di menuetto, and in the finale allegro dynamics continued to be narrow, with the effect elegant. Clearly this duo had perfect ensemble.

Prokofiev’s D Major Sonata (Op. 94) followed, beginning with intonation problems, but the violinist quickly found his footing and focused on the opening moderato with a skittish clarity and a blend of the composer’s unique sugary-tart harmonies. The bantamweight ending was lovely. The presto was played presto with quirky high-speed slides and off beat accents, but never went off the tracks. The long diminuendo ending the andantewas perfectly graded and deliciously drawn out.

Al of the composer’s characteristics were on display in the finale – sarcasm, irony, humor. Mr. Kulek’s stressed the dissonances and occasionally covered the violin line. They played a slow ritard before the big lyrical theme that emphasized the underlying sadness of the music. In sum, a vibrant and committed reading of a masterpiece, and for me the concert’s highlight.

Franck’s great A Major Sonata from 1886 should have been the capstone to the concert, and nearly was. The introductory themes were calm and happy and quite slow, with Mr. Znaider using a wider vibrato and was content to let things flow, with differences in repeated phrases. Mr. Kulek’s arpeggiated chords were deftly played. The famous allegro had many felicities with pedal point at the bottom of piano runs and a big ending upward flourish. What was missing were clarity in the right-hand piano runs, some violin notes not attacked cleanly, and most telling a tad lack of intensity in this most vehement movement.

Mr. Znaider introduced the moderato with a story of his five-year old daughter, and played the music (starting in D Minor and ending in F-Sharp Minor) ravishingly, with surprisingly less vibrato and echoes of first-movement themes. Ensemble was tight. The concluding rondo had a judicious tempo that spotlighted the many modulations, and the sprint to the end generated a standing ovation. It was odd that the Franck was played with score, as were the other programmed pieces.

Beginning the second half were four of Shostakovich’s Preludes from his Op. 34, transcribed by Dmitri Tsyganov. Hey were fetchingly performed, especially the 2nd (the popular Prelude, with a dry sound); the 3rd (a march with Mr. Kulek’s accurate skips); and the 4th (contrasting acerbic and frothy interjections by the violin).

Two encores were offered: Brahms Second Hungarian Dance in a rollicking gypsy rhythm virtuoso romp that brought down the house, and a sultry slow Heifetz transcription with Mr. Znaider’s best schmaltzy double stops.