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Chamber
SPARKLING WIND, STRING, HARP MUSIC AT DEVON HOUSE GARDEN CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, October 9, 2021
Take a mild autumn evening, a garden gazebo with patterned rugs and lit with soft bulbs, shake in a fine chamber ensemble, add a rising new moon, and you have a recipe for the musical delight that violist Elizabeth Prior presented Oct. 9 in her Devon House Garden Concert series. The Marin Terra Li
Recital
AUTHORITATIVE BEETHOVEN SONATA IN KLEIN'S OCCIDENTAL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, October 8, 2021
People attending the first Redwood Arts Council Occidental concert in 20 months found a surprise – a luxurious new lobby attached to the Performing Arts Center. It was a welcome bonus to a recital given by pianist Andreas Klein where the music seemed almost as familiar as was the long shuttered hal
Symphony
MOVIE MUSIC ON THE WINDSOR GREEN IN SO CO PHIL SEASON OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 3, 2021
People approaching the Windsor Green bandstand Oct. 3 for the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s season opening concert had some cause for concern. After 18 months of silence would the all-volunteer orchestra have enough musicians for a big movie music program? After all, performers can move, retire, or
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY RETURNS IN TRIUMPH
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 3, 2021
It is often the case that a single piece or performer steals the show at a symphony concert, but at the Oct. 3 performance of the Santa Rosa Symphony, the show itself stole the show. The concert opened with a serene 1982 tone poem by Libby Larsen, followed by a masterful performance by soloist Julia
Symphony
TWO WIND SOLOISTS CHARM AT SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 26, 2021
The house of music has many rooms. That dusty adage was never truer than when Weill Hall Sept. 25 hosted a roaring New Orleans-style musical party, and less than a day later a mostly sedate Sonoma State University student orchestra performance. Before a crowd of 200 conductor Alexander Kahn led a
Other
CLEARY'S NEW ORLEANS BAND IGNITES PARTY FOR THE GREEN AT SSU
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 25, 2021
A dramatic and unique start to the new Green Music’s Center’ 2021-2022 season exploded in a “Party for the Green” Sept. 25, a New Orleans (NO) style commotion featuring Jon Cleary and his Absolute Monster Gentlemen band, inside and outside of Weill Hall. Beginning with a private gourmet dinner in t
GAULIST FLAVOR IN FINAL SF PIANO FESTIVAL CONCERT AT OLD FIRST
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, August 29, 2021
Final summer music festival programs are often a mix of what has come before, with the theme and even a featured composer taking a last stage appearance, with a dramatic wrap up composition. San Francisco’s International Piano Festival defied the norm August 29 with an eclectic French-flavored prog
SPARE DUO PRECEDES MYSTEROUS DUO AT DEN BOER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, August 27, 2021
In a departure from usual summer festival fare Julia Den Boer played an August 27 virtual recital in the San Francisco Piano Festival’s 4.5 season with four works, all mostly quiet but all in separate ways insistently demanding of artist and listener. Throughout the 40 minutes there was nary a powe
HARMONIC COMPLEXITY IN PHILLIPS' ALL-GRIFFES RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, August 20, 2021
Charles Griffes’ piano music is similar to that of Busoni, Reger and even Poulenc, in that there is a sporadic flourish of interest with concerts and scholarly work, then a quick fade into another long period of obscurity. So, it was a delight to have an all-Griffes recital August 20 on the San F
Chamber
ONE PIANO, TWO PIANO, THREE PIANO, FORE
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 29, 2021
Schroeder Hall was nearly full July 29 for the final pianoSonoma concert of their season, and presumably the draw and highlight for many of the 150 attending was Bach’s Concerto for Four Pianos. And that performance was probably going to be a North Bay premiere. However, it wasn’t the highl
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.