Author Archives: Dr. Gary Lemco

Tight-Lipped Optimism: Master Sinfonia Season Finale

Alex Zhou

A devoted few celebrated Mother’s Day with the music of Sibelius and Brahms, just two composers whom conductor David Ramanadoff chose to conclude the 2016-17 season of Master Sinfonia. The Sunday, May 14 concert at Los Altos Methodist Church featured gifted young violinist Alex Zhou in the Sibelius Violin Concerto, while the one work that occupied the second half, the Brahms D Major Symphony, added a bit of sunshine to an otherwise grudging, sometimes sullen exhibition of epic power. If the Sibelius Concerto expresses a Northern grandeur, the Brahms symphony mixes a pastoral sensibility with thunderheads, what the composer called “the black wings of my personal melancholy.” Read full story

Archived in these categories: Concerto, Orchestral, Romantic Era, Violin


Pianist Sofya Gulyak – Star Crossed Hands

With her one encore, Bach’s arrangement of the Adagio from Alessandro Marcello’s Oboe Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, BWV 974, pianist Sofya Gulyak concluded the last of the 2016-17 Steinway Society concerts, Sunday, May 7 at the Petit Trianon Theatre. The ambitious, largely Russian program, which included music by Clementi, Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, Medtner, and Prokofiev, seemed intent on displaying virtuoso Gulyak’s deft abilities in music requiring the crossing of the hands, and at which her bewitched audience consistently expressed its awed approval. Read full story

Archived in these categories: 20th Century, Baroque, Classical Era, Piano


Luminous: Pianist Beatrice Rana in Recital

Having donned the mantle of her compatriot Maria Tipo, young Italian piano virtuoso Beatrice Rana played two successive evenings – under the aegis, respectively, of San Francisco Performances and the Steinway Society the Bay Area – which fully demonstrated her luminous, often explosively volatile yet sensitive talent. At the Herbst Theatre, San Francisco, on Friday, April 7, Ms. Rana proffered her current specialty, Bach’s 1741 epic Goldberg Variations, BWV 988, played as a single-work recital. On Saturday, April 8, Rana appeared at Le Petit Trianon, San Jose, for a program of Bach, Debussy, Francesconi, and Liszt. Those who attended often listened agape at the voluptuous, startling sonorities Rana wrought from her instrument, revealing a musical personality auditors – as they left the Petit Trianon Theatre – compared to a new Martha Argerich. Read full story

Archived in these categories: 21st Century, Piano, Romantic Era


Panache and Power: A Concert by Symphony Silicon Valley

Pianists Orion Weiss & Alessio Bax

Music of Mozart and Saint-Saëns provided the virtuosic vehicles for conductor Constantine Kitsopoulos and an array of soloists for the series March 17-19 at the California Theatre. Having attended the Saturday, March 18 performance, I can testify to the fine control Kitsopoulos exerted over a large ensemble – specifically the orchestra and the Symphony Silicon Valley Chorale and vocal soloists – for the Mozart Requiem in D Minor, K. 626 as well as Mozart’s Concerto No. 10 in E-flat Major for 2 Pianos, K. 365. Resting – perhaps “smirking” might be the better term – between the two Mozart works, Saint-Saëns’ satiric Carnival of the Animals (with narration by Ogden Nash) made a debonair, sophisticated interlude, featuring the duo-piano artistry of Orion Weiss and Alessio Bax, who had realized fine points in the Mozart concerto.   Read full story

Archived in these categories: Classical Era, Concerto, Orchestral


The Anatomy of Melancholy: A recital by Boris Giltburg

Reversing the first half of the printed program, piano virtuoso Boris Giltburg (b. 1984) delivered a spectacularly successful recital for the Steinway Society the Bay Area at Le Petit Trianon Theatre, Saturday, March 11, with a program of dark, Romantic works by Brahms, Beethoven, and Rachmaninoff. But given Giltburg’s colossal technique and gift for poetic utterance, he made even the most familiar work – namely, Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata – resound with a freshness and authority that removed much sentimental dust from its pages. The rarely performed Brahms Op. 116 Fantasien – that is, played as a complete suite – opened the program, since Giltburg felt he needed more time spent with these compressed “bachelor’s thoughts” (1892) of the aging composer, whose intensely personal, autumnal musings often concentrate much contrapuntal and rhythmically protean materials into a small, melancholy space. In fact, melancholy might have provided the evening’s rubric, with the mighty yet mostly nostalgic figures of the Rachmaninoff Op. 32 Preludes’ serving as the finale to a diversely colorful concert. Read full story

Archived in these categories: 20th Century, Classical Era, Piano