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Annette DiMedio

The glorious four-handed charge of pianist team Montfort and DiMedio
Victorian Englander House – November 11, 2006

 Gioacchino Rossini wrote the opera “William Tell” and pianists Seth Montfort and Annette DiMedio, PhD fired out its overture in a piano gallop of exploding keys and melodic flow. Before the duo began, DiMedio informed the audience: “In Philly, we do it (William Tell) with audience participation!” So, while pianists Montfort and DiMedio feverishly spun magnificent technique and made like two powder kegs of musical ovation, the audience: stomped, whistled and Hi-Hoed, Silver! Smart, playful and gloriously gifted, these two pianists clanged the chime on the red-hot satisfaction meter!

 ~Jean Bartlett for San Francisco Virtuoso

Sandra Simich

Pianist Sandra Simich coaxes a tender enchantment of Grieg
Victorian Englander House – November 11, 2006

Under the baton of conductor Stephen Pu and accompanied by the San Francisco Concerto Orchestra, pianist Sandra Simich placed her fingers to piano keys and coaxed forth a tender enchantment of Edvard Grieg’s “Piano Concerto in A minor.” The piece is wrapped in layers of Norwegian folk music, spun by spirited dance and understated triumph. Simich hands traversed rhythmic vitality, silky phrasing and even a bit of fiddle, with an obvious clear sense of Grieg form and structure. Allowing the piece through her hands to shine in balance, emotion and lyricism, my only request for Ms. Simich is that she turn up the volume – hers is a performance that should be heard in the rafters.

~Jean Bartlett for San Francisco Virtuoso

Kenn Gartner

Spontaneous notes falling like technical pearls in glorious orchestrationPianist Kenn Gartner offers the music of Carl Maria Von Weber
Victorian Englander House – November 11, 2006
 

“Konzertstück in F minor, op. 79” by Carl Maria Von Weber can only be played by someone who is at ease with gargantuan technique. Welcome to the world of pianist Kenn Gartner. Along with The San Francisco Concerto Orchestra and under the baton of conductor Geoffrey Gallegos, Gartner performed “Konzertstück” for his Saturday audience at Victorian Englander House. The piece is interesting, requiring streams of cluster chord madness and delicate, seemingly spontaneous notes. At times the orchestra and piano appear to splash through waves of fire. It is a long piece, a precise piece, an abstract romantic – not always easy to hear, but fascinating to watch and Gartner’s performance on piano was groundbreaking.

 ~Jean Bartlett for San Francisco Virtuoso

The hot breath of extraordinary music
Seth Montfort at Victorian Englander House – November 11, 2006

Pianist, composer Seth Montfort, shirtless, muscular, draped by a black cape eerily representative of an immortal from Transylvania, sat down to the grand piano of Victorian Englander House and dared to play a gripping manifestation of death. Montfort gave us the symphonic poem, “Totentanz” by Franz Liszt. Shadowy chords mix in and out of the hope of heaven’s light. It is one of the most technically demanding pieces for piano ever penned and Montfort played it with intricate, precision fingering catapulting medieval angst into triumph. An exhilarating, sustaining performance.

~Jean Bartlett for San Francisco Virtuoso

Show stopping Liszt electric by pianist Annette DiMedio and the San Francisco Concerto Orchestra
Victorian Englander House – November 11, 2006

When pianist Annette DiMedio, PhD sits herself down to the grand; buckle up for the time of your life.  Performing “Piano Concerto No. 1 in Eb” (Liszt), under the rousing baton of conductor Roberto Gonzalez and with all the colors of the San Francisco Concerto Orchestra in counterpoint, DiMedio heroically finger danced over pyrotechnics, spools of intimacy and delicious poetry.  There was an absolute high voltage physicality required of DiMedio to really capture all the rapture and tenderness which Liszt poured into this concerto and she did so with aplomb.  Heroic, show stopping Liszt electric by pianist DiMedio and the San Francisco Concerto Orchestra – and yes, you should have been there.

~Jean Bartlett for San Francisco Virtuoso

 

The colors of a flute ballet
Flutist Elizabeth Gaston at Victorian Englander House – November 11, 2006

Stamina, stamina, stamina! Approximately eight minutes of riveting performance and technical tightrope work driven by superlative vibrato, bent notes, fast passage, gliding temperament – all with never a gasp for air in evidence, Ms. Elizabeth Gaston presented “Concertino For Flute, Opus 107” by Cécile Chaminade. Accompanied by The San Francisco Concerto Orchestra under the baton of Kenn Gartner, Ms. Gaston’s rustling sweep of the flute met and mated in heart pounding cadenza with the charge lead gavotte of sweeping orchestration. The piece written by Chaminade to desperately woo the man who did not love her (the bum), poured through the measure of Gaston’s hands to present all the colors of flute ballet. (High marks and a penance-free life for performing her piece in the spirit of the evening’s program title, the “Battle of the Puritans and the Exhibitionists.” Gaston dressed as a nun.)

~Jean Bartlett for San Francisco Virtuoso

Barbara Sprung Wilkes

Landing on musical notes of wings and might, pianist Barbara Sprung-Wilkes plays Schumann
Victorian Englander House – November 11, 2006

Schumann’s “Piano Concerto in A minor, Opus 54” is one of the greatest works of any century. It was performed Saturday night within the noble walls of San Francisco’s Victorian Englander House and without a doubt, this beautiful performance made the grand old lady sigh in replete. The piece, conducted by Geoffrey Gallegos, offered the stirring sounds of The San Francisco Concerto Orchestra and the absolutely riveting virtuosic soloist work of pianist Barbara Sprung-Wilkes. From beginning to end Ms. Sprung-Wilkes rode the Schumann technical wave of idealism, romanticism, racing raging storm into the rapture and the serene. Her fingers climbed through expansive, difficult passages with the power and might of poetry on wings. A breathtaking performance causing many in the audience to dab at their eyes and all of the audience to stand up and cheer. Brava!

Reviewed by San Francisco Virtuoso

Lisa Thomas

Pianist Lisa Thomas and orchestra dramatize the spiritual sounds of “Dawn”
An evening at Victorian Englander House – November 11, 2006

Arthur Farwell wrote “Dawn – A Fantasy on Indian Themes, Opus 12” and it was played Saturday night at a concert entitled “Battle of the Puritans and the Exhibitionists.” It was performed by The San Francisco Concerto Orchestra, conducted by Roberto Gonzalez and featured soloist Lisa Thomas on piano. Ms. Thomas arrived appropriately dressed in a Native American white buckskin type dress, lively with beadwork and embroidered design. The piece opened with orchestrated waterfall, and the piano keys as played by Ms. Thomas flowed like an old new world, over weathered rocks in a stream. There is a certain tonal combination within the piece that flirts with dance, drum and chant and Ms. Thomas’s clean ability to sweep the music along an early morning’s star light brought her audience to the auditory edge of a musical Grand Canyon.

~Jean Bartlett for San Francisco Virtuoso