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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 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 Chopin’s C Sharp Op. 26 Polonaise, Ms. Magnani talked at length about the composer’s 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 it’s 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. Magnani’s 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 artist’s bright tone, tasteful ritards and consummate pedal control. Additionally, Ms. Magnani’s 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 theme’s 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 Debussy’s 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.

Debussy’s 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 Soirée dans Grenade Ms. Magnani’s 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 work’s excitement.

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

No encore was offered.