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RECITAL REVIEW

Daniel Glover Acknowledging Applause Feb. 17 at Cinnabar

GLOVER'S ECLECTIC PROGRAMMING HIGHLIGHT'S CINNABAR RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019

Daniel Glover is arguably the busiest virtuoso pianist in the San Francisco Bay area, but rarely is heard in North Bay concerts. So 90 local pianophiles were anxious to hear him Feb. 17 in Petaluma’s charming small Cinnabar Theater, and they were rewarded with an eclectic program of sometimes unfamiliar but always intriguing music.

At the outset it’s important to know that Mr. Glover does not structure his recitals in the usual format, and he loves to provide extended remarks prior to each piece. At times the commentary was wayward and arcane, but it was always laced with humor and sporadically with novel insights to the music. The pianist is a musical crusader, and tonight was often irrepressible with his stage energy carrying over to most of the music on the program

The evening’s pièce de résistance was Liszt’s seminal B Minor Sonata, and Mr. Glover’s interpretation of the masterful work from 1853 was at turns energetic, quietly lyrical and demonic. Liszt scholar Alan Walker feels the Sonata needs to clock in just under 30 minutes, and Mr. Glover’s performance was a fast 28, but it’s even possible to stretch the Sonata to 31 minutes (Garrick Ohlsson’s reading) by spending time sniffing the lovely flowers amongst the sonic thunder. In this recital the artist certainly wanted to project the work as high drama, attacking the under gunned house instrument with rapid-fire scale passages, repeated fortissimo chords and paying scant attention to extended rubatos and languorous parts. In the recitativo and andante sostenuto sections he played with an engaging poetry, letting in some air to the drama that was otherwise mostly absent.

Surprisingly the allegro energicofugue was played at a judicious tempo, and the interpretation grew in intensity towards the presto sections where running octaves in both hands demanded both speed and clarity. Mr. Glover’s octaves never failed him, and he left nothing on the table, and his copious wrong notes seemed only to establish that this performance was one fashioned with musical animation, potent motive projection and conviction.

Liszt’s six Consolations, from the same period as the Sonata, were played with the short E Major’s chordal legato seamlessly moving to No. 2 in the same key. The well-known D-Flat Consolation had the right-hand melody played slower than usual, but without much rhythmic subtlety at the end of phrases or attention paid to the mysterious dissonant chord five bars before the pianissimo end. Arpeggio playing in the D-Flat adagio was lovely, and the final E Major allegretto cantabile was subtlety poetic and at a brisk clip.

What could follow such provocative Liszt after intermission? Mr. Glover is often a man of repertoire surprises, and three works by Beryl Rubinstein were fascinating pianism with a French flavor, reminiscent of Poulenc, Chaminade and even bits of Chabrier. The toccata-like Arabesque was played with repeated echo notes in the right hand, followed by the mildly dissonant nocturne’s impressionism with phrases in slow modulations, and the big contrasts in the concluding caprice at a presto pace where the pianist managed clarity in difficult close hand positions. It’s a marvelous suite of beguiling pieces, and clearly congenial to the pianist.

Four Gershwin Preludes from 1934 were next, each with Broadway melodies tinged with jazz syncopations. Highlights for me were the heat-of-the-night wet sound (right out of “Porgy and Bess”) with ostinato accompaniment in the andante con moto e poco rubato and the brilliantly played rhythms of the allegro ben ritmato e desiso. Beryl Rubinstein’s transcription of “Bess You Is My Woman” from Gershwin’s 1935 Opera “Porgy and Bess” followed, and here the pianist opted for some unique inner voices in the intricate contrapuntalism. It was a wonderful evocation of Gershwin’s singular genius.

Concluding the all-American composer second half was Gottschalk’s sparking F-Sharp Major “Banjo,” Op. 15, written at the same time as the Liszt Sonata but worlds apart in style and effect. The artist frequently mimicked the twang and pluck of the string banjo in repeated figurations, and his acrobatic skips in both hands were impressive along with inspired presentation of the captivating themes and pianistic sonority.

Of course it brought the house down, and Mr. Glover responded with additional Gershwin Broadway Show pieces, “The Man I Love” (from Lady Be Good) and “I Got Rhythm” (from Girl Crazy). Both were excitable performances, each with a nod to pianist Earl Wild, in the vein of musical theatricality that characterized a splendid recital.