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Recital
DYNAMIC PIANISM IN YAKUSHEV MARIN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 23, 2022
Russian pianist Ilya Yakushev arrived Jan. 23 at his Mill Valley Chamber Music Society recital with the repute of playing loud and fast and delivering charming introductory musical remarks to his audience. He was true to form in Mill Valley’s Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church, preceding Haydn’s sple
Symphony
THE SHOW MUST GO ON
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 9, 2022
The Jan. 9 Santa Rosa Symphony concert was supposed to feature the world premiere of Gabriella Smith’s first symphony, but it ended up featuring another type of premiere: a concert that was conceived, rehearsed and performed in less than eight hours. Symphony staff learned on Sunday morning that so
Choral and Vocal
AN OLD FRIEND RETURNS TO WEILL IN STERLING ABS MESSIAH PERFORMANCE
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Sunday, December 19, 2021
A tremendous accomplishment by the American Bach Soloists Dec. 19 was near perfect performance of Handel's Messiah in Weill Hall. Long an annual tradition at San Francisco's Grace Cathedral, the ABS took to the road and delivered a Christmas gift of epic proportions to an obviously thrilled and enth
Symphony
SHOSTAKOVICH FIFTH THUNDERS AT WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 5, 2021
In a new season marketed as “Classical Reunion,” the Santa Rosa Symphony made a palpable connection with its audience at the early December set of three standing ovation concerts in Weill Hall. The December 5 concert, with 1,000 attending, is reviewed here. Vaughan Williams’ popular Fantasia on a T
Chamber
THE LINCOLN RETURNS WITH CLARKE'S PUNGENT TRIO
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, November 18, 2021
There were many familiar faces Nov. 18 during Music at Oakmont’s initial concert of the season, but perhaps the most necessary were the three musicians of the Lincoln Piano Trio, the Chicago-based group that has performed often in Oakmont since 2006. A smaller than unusual audience in Berger Audito
Symphony
NOSTALGIC BARBER KNOXVILLE AT SO CO PHIL JACKSON THEATER CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 14, 2021
In their first Jackson Theater appearance of the new season the Sonoma County Philharmonic presented Nov. 14 a program devoid of novelty, but showcasing the “People’s Orchestra” in splendid performance condition after a long COVID-related layoff. Conductor Norman Gamboa drew a committed and boister
Chamber
THRILLING PIANO QUINTETS IN MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 14, 2021
The Mill Valley Chamber Music Society sprang back to life on November 14 when a stellar ensemble from the Manhattan Chamber Players, a New York-based collective, arrived to perform two piano quintets: Vaughn-Williams’ in C Minor (1903), little known and rarely performed; and Schubert’s in A Major D.
Chamber
MUSCULAR BRAHMS FROM IVES COLLECTIVE IN GLASER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 14, 2021
Leaving SRJC’s Newman Auditorium for the first time in decades, the College’s Chamber Concert Series presented a season-opening concert Nov. 14 in Santa Rosa’s Glaser Center with the four-musician Bay-Area based Ives Collective. The season, the first given since 2020, is dedicated to Series Founder
Symphony
MONUMENTAL BRAHMS SYMPHONY HIGHLIGHTS MARIN SYMPHONY RETURN
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 7, 2021
In the waning COVID pandemic the Marin Symphony is one of the last Bay Area orchestras to return to the stage, and they did with considerable fanfare Nov. 7 before 1,200 in Civic Center Auditorium, with resident conductor Alasdair Neale leading a demanding concert of Brahms, Schumann and New York-ba
Symphony
APOLLO'S FIRE LIGHTS UP VIVALDI'S FOUR SEASONS IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 30, 2021
Long ago the Canadian violin virtuoso Gil Shaham played a program in Weill Hall of solo Bach, with a visual backdrop of slowly developing visuals, such as a pokey flower opening over four minutes. The Bach was sensational, and some in the audience liked the photos but many found them disconcerting,
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.