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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

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.