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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,
Chamber
SPARKLING WIND, STRING, HARP MUSIC AT DEVON HOUSE GARDEN CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, October 9, 2021
Take a mild autumn evening, a garden gazebo with patterned rugs and lit with soft bulbs, shake in a fine chamber ensemble, add a rising new moon, and you have a recipe for the musical delight that violist Elizabeth Prior presented Oct. 9 in her Devon House Garden Concert series. The Marin Terra Li
Recital
AUTHORITATIVE BEETHOVEN SONATA IN KLEIN'S OCCIDENTAL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, October 8, 2021
People attending the first Redwood Arts Council Occidental concert in 20 months found a surprise – a luxurious new lobby attached to the Performing Arts Center. It was a welcome bonus to a recital given by pianist Andreas Klein where the music seemed almost as familiar as was the long shuttered hal
Symphony
MOVIE MUSIC ON THE WINDSOR GREEN IN SO CO PHIL SEASON OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 3, 2021
People approaching the Windsor Green bandstand Oct. 3 for the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s season opening concert had some cause for concern. After 18 months of silence would the all-volunteer orchestra have enough musicians for a big movie music program? After all, performers can move, retire, or
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY RETURNS IN TRIUMPH
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 3, 2021
It is often the case that a single piece or performer steals the show at a symphony concert, but at the Oct. 3 performance of the Santa Rosa Symphony, the show itself stole the show. The concert opened with a serene 1982 tone poem by Libby Larsen, followed by a masterful performance by soloist Julia
Symphony
TWO WIND SOLOISTS CHARM AT SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 26, 2021
The house of music has many rooms. That dusty adage was never truer than when Weill Hall Sept. 25 hosted a roaring New Orleans-style musical party, and less than a day later a mostly sedate Sonoma State University student orchestra performance. Before a crowd of 200 conductor Alexander Kahn led a
REVIEW
San Francisco International Piano Festival / Friday, August 20, 2021
Nicholas Phillips, piano

Nicholas Phillips Playing Griffes Aug. 20

HARMONIC COMPLEXITY IN PHILLIPS' ALL-GRIFFES RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Friday, August 20, 2021

Charles Griffes’ piano music is similar to that of Busoni, Reger and even Poulenc, in that there is a sporadic flourish of interest with concerts and scholarly work, then a quick fade into another long period of obscurity.

So, it was a delight to have an all-Griffes recital August 20 on the San Francisco International Piano Festival’s virtual series, played by Wisconsin-based pianist Nicholas Phillips. Video was effectively directed and the audio pristine, a bright piano sound making the composer’s lush harmonies gayly vivid and the fortes from the instrument hefty.

Mr. Phillips played from score throughout and the three works he chose over 52 minutes often featured judicious tempos. The music at times unfolded without sufficient urgency, something needed with most Griffes, but on balance the compositions sounded convincing enough with this approach.

The composer’s monumental Sonata wasn’t programmed, but Mr. Phillip’s wisely chose the best remaining Griffes works, beginning with the Op. 7 Roman Sketches. He played each of the four splendidly, beginning with the popular White Peacock’s shimmering legato chords and capturing the mystery of Nightfall. Novel clarity was heard in the The Fountain of the Aqua Paola, Mr. Phillips letting air into the interpretation with the final chords perfectly phrased. Clouds had the requisite complex atmospheric character, the left-hand Ostinatos sounding a melancholy impression of aerial sights.

A highlight of the recital was the playing in The Pleasure Dome of Kubla Kahn, originally for orchestra and here in the 1912 solo piano version. Mr. Phillips was in no hurry here and several Fermatas were quite extended, and he artfully juxtaposed the exoticism of the work with it wild frenetic sections. His control of layered harmonies was lovely, and this music needed this pianist’s imagination and deft touch. Kahn is such a great work, unique at the time of composition along with Sorabji, late Scriabin and Debussy.

Griffes’ three Fantasy Pieces (Op. 6) closed the program, each played with distinct individual shape. The Barcarolle unfolded in playing alien to the Barcarolles of Fauré and Chopin, the artist favoring delicacy at the expense of a more meandering water experience. The playing in the Nocturne was properly poetic, and the Scherzo’s bravura properly virtuosic.

Mr. Phillips has an obvious affinity for this “hot house” music, perhaps an acquired taste for some but for me always an auspicious experience. His elegant performance surely won new admirers to Griffes sonic wizardry.