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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...
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.