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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
SYMPHONY REVIEW

Charles Richard-Hamelin in Schroeder March 25 (JCM Photo)

HAMELIN'S HUSKY MOOD IN SCHROEDER RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 25, 2018

Convention in piano recitals has the artist coming on stage and playing. Canadian pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin walked on Schroeder Hall’s stage March 25 and didn’t play for six minutes, chatting with the audience. A risk for some artists. Then most programs include a contemporary or rarely played work (Ligeti, Anton Rubinstein, Alkan, Field). Mr. Hamelin programmed just conventional Schumann and Chopin. Another risk, and with easy comparisons with more established pianists than the 29-year old competition winner.

What was not risky was Mr. Hamelin’s musical approach, as he was unconventional in a boisterous and dramatic mood during almost all of the Schumann Op. 18 Arabesque and C Major Fantasia, and the Four Chopin Ballades. He played the C Major Arabesque with the cantabile the 1839 work needs, and used the shift pedal often to color the sound and the two contrasting episodes.

In the famous Fantasia the long first movement unfolded in dramatic fashion, and Mr. Hamelin made it harmonically clear that the key never really resolves into C Major until the last page. Oddly he played three final soft chords where the score indicates only two. An occasional bass doubling again pointed to the work’s complex harmonic structure. It was a powerful reading but never willful. In the marvelous March movement Mr. Hamelin’s pianism was convincing in its energy but less so in tonal beauty. But it’s that kind of movement, and he three times doubled left-hand chords for potent interest, the last before the legendary contrary-motion skips in both hands (which he nailed without apparent fear).

Lovely modulations were highlighted in the dreamy finale, played more rapidly than conventionally, and the small climaxes were carefully shaped. The second chorale theme had beauty, with balanced chords before the last long section began. The three pianissimo chords that end the piece were masterfully even and at soft volume heard to the back of the Hall.

Following intermission Mr. Hamelin again spoke at length to the audience of 150, sometimes indistinctly though using a microphone, and began with the ever-popular Chopin G Minor Ballade, Op. 23. There was a natural rise and fall to the phrasing and general sonic muscle, though the right hand octaves in the repetition of the second theme were played too fast for clarity. This Ballade has a narrative backbone that Mr. Hamelin set out well. Big boned playing continued in the F Major Ballade, a piece where cascades of sonorities were effectively delivered, and the carnage of the final measures led into a quiet and simple ending. Momentum from the previous two Ballades carried over to the A Flat, the most congenial of the four, and was a little out of place. Mr. Hamelin used a lot of damper pedal and pushed the tempo. He is not a colorist and here energy tempted lyricism.

The recital ended with the F Minor Ballade, with the Schumann Fantasia one of the peaks of 19th-Century piano literature, and when played by a seasoned virtuoso it is a cosmos of emotions in fewer than ten minutes. Mr. Hamelin’s conception this afternoon was conventional but never routine, and there was abundant power and voice leading. The tenor section was taken slowly. Before the tumultuous coda the pianist avoided extending the bottom C Major Chord with pedal (the Slavic tradition) prior to the five soft anticipatory chords, and signaled the rushed drive to the finish with impressive fury and clarion speed. On balance it was the best local set of Chopin Ballades since Lang Lang’s Weill Hall 2013 opening concert, and the more recent Nancy Lee Harper traversal for Concerts Grand.

One encore was offered, a transcription (Wilhelm Kempff?) from Bach’s keyboard Concerto in F. It was sensuously played, and a warm change from tempestuous pianistic brilliance of the glorious Ballades.