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by Terry McNeill
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Opera
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Choral and Vocal
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Symphony
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Chamber
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by Abby Wasserman
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Chamber
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by Terry McNeill
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Chamber
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Chamber
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Chamber
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by Terry McNeill
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Choral and Vocal
A GRAND DIVA'S SHIMMERING AND PROVOCATIVE RECITAL IN WEILL HALL
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
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RECITAL REVIEW

Pianist Laura Magnani June 6

COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100.

The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a basketball playoff game on television and a special Bocce Ball tournament, but SLV Impresario Robert Hayden forged ahead and presented Marin-based artist Laura Magnani in a sparkling program of Chopin and Debussy.

Before beginning Chopinís C Sharp Op. 26 Polonaise, Ms. Magnani talked at length about the composerís relationship with his native Poland, and in the bold opening phrases of the extroverted Polonaise she did catch the flavor of the aristocratic dance. In the second bar was a stark missed note, and most would think that a dropped note so early would be unnerving for the performer. But itís often quite the opposite, as every piano recital has playing on the key cracks, and it can be a relief to get the wrong note out of the way early. There were few over the rest of the recital, and the artist quickly established a distinctive and muscular sonority in nearly each composition.

Two Mazurkas followed (Op. 17, No. 4, and Op. 68, No. 2) and the plaintive Mazurka in A Major was lovely, with a beguiling pause at the end, and a good segue to Ms. Magnaniís playing of the rhythmically complex A Minor. She said in remarks that these Mazurkas were for Polish peasant dances, and her playing was indeed both atmospheric and sophisticated.

Two larger-scale Chopin works, the Fantasie-Impromptu and the G Minor Ballade, showcased the artistís bright tone, tasteful ritards and consummate pedal control. Additionally, Ms. Magnaniís skips in both hands were accurate throughout the evening, and in the Ballade her technical command and interpretative power has markedly matured since a recital in Belvedere almost decade ago. Octave playing was fast and the accelerando prior to the second themeís entrance was a new and sturdy interpretative touch. This Ballade performance told a story.

In additional extended remarks (on Debussy) the pianist underscored her Italian musical roots, and made exemplary connections to Debussyís novel mastery of piano sonority. The two Arabesques (from 1888, at age 26) had the requisite color with the popular first in E not too fast, and the second (in G) showing a chaste staccato touch, humor and again those exact right-hand skips.

Debussyís three Estampes (imprints) from 1903 received high-level readings with persuasive dynamic control. In Pagodes the bottom D and E flats were punctuated loudly, and in both this work and the Soirťe dans Grenade Ms. Magnaniís repeated note phrases and cross-hand and close hand skips were virtuosic, and her vocal color captivating. The final Jardins sous la Pluie was played with commanding melodic and dynamic contrast, and with the stamina needed to establish the workís excitement.

Expressive playing and stamina continued in the closing LíIsle Joyeuse, a popular Debussy piece where Ms. Magnaniís instrumental control produced animated excitement and brilliant sound in the flashing coda. Of course it brought down the house.

No encore was offered.