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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

Pianist Louis Lortie

HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018

One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now they seem to be on almost every contemporary piano recital.

Louis Lortie’s April 21 Weill Hall recital featured Schubert’s 38-minute G Major Fantasy Sonata, D. 894, for the entire first half. Mr. Lortie gave the work a straightforward interpretation with a careful development of the long thematic lines. There were many small variations in dynamics in the opening molto moderato and in general a robust approach to phrasing and tempo. The playing had balance and, when needed, thrust. The andante was played lyrically and at time “bouncy” with subtle adjustments in tempo, and the menuetto was played as a lively song, sunshine replacing the previous drama.

The long road to the finish underscored what musicians often say about the Schubert sonatas: it’s a heavenly length, and it’s not the music’s immediate impact but the journey that in the end counts. I thought it slightly risky to program the piece, which is exciting but difficult to sustain, but the audience of 350 was convinced and provided the artist with extended loud applause.

Four Chopin works occupied the second half, two Mazurkas and two extended but different dramatic compositions, both composed in 1841. Here the pianist was less successful in getting to the heart of Chopin’s music as did he so well with the Schubert.

Each Mazurka, the F Minor (Op. 7, No. 3) and the Op. 59, No. 3 (F-Sharp Minor), was played in a big-boned style with little attention to internal phrase rubato and the little shifts in instrumental color. This isn’t saying that the dance character of both wasn’t displayed, but that the interpretations tended to be overly forceful and lacking in repose and charm. Polish dances do contain charm as well as Slavic effervescence.

The F Minor Fantasy performance was a program highlight, as Mr. Lortie’s energetic mood captured the music’s demonic character, and he gave each modulation in the march-like passages individual and potent sound. Occasionally the Hall’s acoustic shortcomings in fast legato passagework made the pianist’s runs blurred, but his admirable octave technique never failed him. The chorale was played in a beautiful contrast, and the return of the main theme was carried with left-hand pedal point and a tiny pesky memory lapse. Overall it was a rushed and over-pedaled reading that was also everywhere dramatically convincing.

Ending the recital with a great Polonaise, in this case the F-Sharp Minor Op. 44, was a surprise programming choice and not an ordinary recital closer. It was played with firm rhythmic drive and had a majestic climax and lots of volume.

Returning to the stage Mr. Lortie continued the afternoon’s fast virtuosity with two Chopin studies, the Op. 25 A Flat (“Aeolian Harp”) and the popular showoff C-Sharp Minor, Op. 10, No. 4. The first encore missed the elegance and craft of a slower tempo, and the latter demonstrated the artist’s penchant, at lest at this recital, for finger agility and velocity in Chopin’s marvelous music.