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Chamber
TURINA PERFORMANCE HIGHLIGHTS SSU FACULTY CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
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Chamber
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Symphony
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by Steve Osborn
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Choral and Vocal
ORGAN-CHOIR COMBO IN BACH CELEBRATION
by Terry McNeill
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Recital
FRENCH FLAVOR IN RARE FOUR-HAND RECITAL
by Judy Walker
Sunday, January 15, 2023
Choral and Vocal
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by Terry McNeill
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Choral and Vocal
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Choral and Vocal
SILVER ANNIVERSARY BACH RECITAL AT INCARNATION'S EVENSONG SERVICE
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Symphony
JOY, LOVELY DIVINE SPARK!
by Steve Osborn
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Other
DINOVA PIANISM CHARMS SATED AUDIENCE AT J-B MARIN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 20, 2022
RECITAL REVIEW
Presbyterian Church of the Roses / Sunday, January 15, 2023
Nancy Hayashibara and Marilyn Thompson, piano

Pianist Nancy Hayashibara

FRENCH FLAVOR IN RARE FOUR-HAND RECITAL

by Judy Walker
Sunday, January 15, 2023

As part of their Roses Signature Concert Series Santa Rosa’s Church of the Roses presented Jan. 15 a piano four-hands recital performed by Marilyn Thompson and Nance Hayashibara. The program consisted of a familiar combination of primarily French works plus a selection from the lively Brahms Hungarian dances. Approximately seventy attended.

The piano duet is a somewhat unique art form and probably the most intimate version of chamber music. Two musicians must navigate the physical and mental challenges of playing on one instrument, one score, one seat, and it’s no wonder that many performers are siblings, husband and wife, or close friends, as is the case with these performers. As in all the works during the recital, Ms. Hayashibara played the primo and Ms. Thompson secondo. The Church is an appealing space with bright acoustics well suited to vocal music but whose overtones presented problems for the performers, especially where sonic crispness and clarity are required.

The six short pieces of Faure’s Dolly Suite began the recital, the 1896 work written to mark birthdays and other events in the life of a young girl that was known to her family as “Dolly”. This performance was distinguished by an appreciation for the gentleness and humor imbedded in the music. From the opening Berceuse, through the playful mi-a-ou and kitty waltz (neither referring to cats – the kitty waltz was based on the family’s pet dog whose name was Ketty) on to the more modern chromaticism of Tendresse and finally the liveliness of the Spanish Dance. Tempos were not rushed, inner voices and especially canonic effects were observed, and judicious phrasing and pedaling contributed to the music’s French ambience and charm.

Five of the Brahms Hungarian Dances followed, offering a marked contrast in style. These pieces require the utmost precision and cohesion between the two players and an opportunity to display sharp dynamic contrasts and ample rubato providing dramatic emphasis. Playing the required repeated sections throughout, the duo managed to capture the essential Budapest Café atmosphere – lively, mysterious, quixotic and tender. Audience appreciation was pronounced.

After intermission the French theme continued with Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite. Originally written for piano duet in 1910, Ravel orchestrated the work a year later and this version was subsequently expanded into a ballet. Like Faure’s Dolly Suite, this duet was dedicated to the children of friends and bears the sub-title “five children’s pieces”. The work consists of five vignettes, all referring to fairy tales, and a successful interpretation of this music is dependent on the pianists evoking the many different contrasting moods contained in the Suite.

The titles of each segment provide a summary of these contrasts – Pavane of Sleeping Beauty; Hop-o-My-Thumb; Empress of the Pagodas; Beauty and the Beast; The Fairy Garden. Unfortunately, the printed program didn’t include translation of the French titles. The duo conveyed the essence of each movement convincingly, the highlight being the Empress of the Pagodas where the crisply percussive playing of opening theme, which uses a pentatonic scale in the primo part, plus the persistent use of a gamelan sound in the secondo, underscored the oriental quality of the music.

A Poulenc Sonata for Piano Duet concluded the concert, the writing of the 1918 piece seemingly influenced by Satie and Stravinsky. The sonata, comprising three short movements, is full of youthful brashness and charm. Utilizing a tablet with an air pedal instead of the written score, the pianists over just six minutes displayed arguably the best playing of the recital, capturing the essence of each movement’s folksy melodies and spiky rhythms with fine pianism.

Generous audience applause greeted the final notes.