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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

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.