Welcome to St. Paul’s Concert Series Performance Reviews! Relive the experience, or see what you missed!
During COVID-19 Shelter-In-Place, we started broadcasting all our concerts online. This now allows us to share our online concerts after-the-fact, and allows you to replay them! Click on our Youtube Playlist HERE to replay your favorite performance (from August 2020 onward), or simply click on the photo below of the concert you’d like to watch. If you enjoy the performance, please consider making a donation to help us keep bringing you these great performances. To make a donation, click HERE.
Here are the Reviews from our past concerts. Enjoy!
Volti Vocal Ensemble: May 13, 2023
On May 13, we invited the Volti Vocal Ensemble back to the stage for an encore performance, and what a performance it was! The Ensemble presented a stellar program, including Given Sound by choral composer superstar Trevor Weston, Words Cast Shadows in its world premier by Mark Winges, Aletheia , a tribute to Ukraine by Žibuoklė Martinaitytė, and other pieces composed by Caroline Shaw and Eric Tuan. As an added treat, composers Mark Winges and Žibuoklė Martinaitytė attended the performance and gave an introduction of their compositions. The music was lively, playful, and filled with imagery and expressions that drew you in and held you suspended and wrapped in sound. Bravo to the Ensemble and Music Director Robert Geary! What a fabulous concert!
Pianist Carlos Manuel Vargas: April 22, 2023
On April 22, we were entertained by Carlos Vargas, a young pianist who grew up in the Dominican Republic, and currently teaches at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Mr. Vargas played with such joy and energy, and then matched with his technical mastery of the instrument, the music truly came alive under his command. The program was so enjoyable, as he included such a beautiful blend of traditional classics such as Chopin’s Scherzo No. 1 in B Minor with modern and even jazzy pieces by Villa Lobos, Scriabin, and a Gershwin-inspired suite by Earl Wild. Such a truly magnificent performance with such complex layers and yet beautiful melodies brought forward, I plan to indulge and listen to this performance again and again!
Organist Marek Kudlicki: March 25, 2023
We were thrilled for the opportunity to host Organist Marek Kudlicki from Vienna, to perform on our pipe organ at St. Paul’s, on March 25! Mr. Kudlicki presented many organ favorites, plus a number of perhaps lesser-known pieces that were selected to highlight Polish composers. Not only was Mr. Kudlicki successful in representing his favorite Polish composers, but he also showed off the majesty of our organ! His program began with simple Baroque pieces by Hans Leo Hassler, organ Tablature by Jan of Lublin, and a prelude and fugue by J.S. Bach. He then presented Choral Preludes, Opus 122 by Johannes Brahms, and then “pulled out all the stops” with more modern pieces by Polish composers F. Borowski, F. Nowowiejski, and M. Surzynski. The church was filled with sound of this lovely instrument, and we thank Mr. Kudlicki for such an evening of musical splendor.
Classical Guitarist Aaron Haas: February 18, 2023
The classical guitar has such a personal and inviting sound, doesn’t it? When presented by a master such as Aaron Haas, the effect is amazing! On February 18, Mr. Haas indulged us in a beautiful solo performance at St. Paul’s. As he played, the music felt like a love letter being read through the graceful phrasing and fingering of the pieces. It was so moving and beautiful, I had to remember to breathe! Mr. Haas began the performance with a short improvisation, and then moved us through musical ages, starting with the baroque piece Violin Sonata No. 1 in G Minor by J.S.Bach. He then presented Three Lieder (songs) by Schubert, and then moved to later impressionist Spanish pieces, including La Catedral by Agustin Barrios Mangore and Tonadilla Sur le Nom du Andres Segovia by Castelnuovo-Tedesco. What an absolutely sweet performance!
MusAlliance Duo with Soprano Marina Tolstova: January 28, 2023
It is such a splendid treat to hear MusAlliance Duo, as they graced the stage with an encore performance at St. Paul’s this January. Guitarist Anna Kusner and mandolinist Peter Omelchenko played intricately, lively, and beautifully as they presented beloved favorites such as Paganini’s The Carnival of Venice, Offenbach’s Can Can, and Pujol’s Palermo, and a number of their own compositions. Also joined on the stage by soprano extraordinaire Marina Tolstova, we were treated to such beautiful pieces such as Delibes’ Les Filles de Cadiz, J.s. Bach’s Air on a G String, and Deanna Dubin’s Folk Song Medley. Then, a coup de gras, MusAlliance Duo closed the performance with the Original Dixieland Jazz Band’s Tiger Rag. The energy and showmanship of these performers was astounding; what a fabulous performance given to us!
Austin & Owens Guitar Duo: November 12, 2022
Back by popular demand, the guitar duo Travis Austin and Robert Owens performed a spectacular concert at St. Paul’s this November. The lightness, accented with perfect articulation and movement in their style was such a joy to hear, with hooks catching your ear between their dueling solos and upbeat rhythms. Venturing from classical, flamenco, to jazz and even a few favorite rock pieces, it was an absolute delight to be in this space this evening. The music was alive! Austin and Owens, you rock!
Ari Duo Jiwon Evelyn Kwark (Violin) and Sarah Hong (Cello): September 10, 2022
What an absolute delight! Ensemble Ari is a most talented and accomplished group of professional musicians, based nearby here in San Francisco. St. Paul’s has hosted different performers from the Ensemble for multiple concerts, and each performance has been stellar, with this performance reaching and exceeding high expectations.
Violinist Jiwon Evelyn Kwark created vivid musical “images” with her violin, and the delicacy yet fullness of the shadowing cello notes from Sarah Hong made the colors and even more vivid with the ensemble sound. The duo presented Mozart’s “Duo for Violin and Cello in G Major” with a sweetness and purity that drew me into that swirl of beauty encircling the room. What an opening to the performance! They then took the images to deeper and yet more playful tones with Honneger’s “Sonatine for Violin and Cello”. Then, for the second half of the performance, they presented Kodaly’s “Duo for Violin and Cello, Op. 7”, a more modern piece which opened the spectrum wide in rhythms, melodies and emotions emanating from these musicians! Our Duo played with feeling and impeccable virtuosity; a joy and a delight to experience.
William Feasley, Classical Guitar: August 13, 2022
On August 13, 2022, William Feasley gave his solo performance, Diferencias, dedicating this concert to a dear friend and guitar maker, Randy Angella, of Concord, California. It was a treat to have Classical Guitarist William Feasley return to our Concert Series for a stunning concert on the 13th! The concert started with short pieces by Alonso De Mudarra from the16th century. Feasley then presented a modern composition written by Ronald Pearl, written in honor of the artist Goya, followed with modern variations on the theme “Greensleeves”. After intermission, Feasley stepped back in time, introducing “Chaconne in D Minor” (J.S. Bach), and then brought us into modern sounds with “Variations on a Turkish Folk Song” (Domeniconi), and ended the performance with “Passion Dance” (McCoy Tyner), as arranged by Flamenco composer Marcelo Ferraris. The variety and range of music styles was impressive and delightful! An evening of classical guitar at its best!
Volti A Cappella Vocal Ensemble: June 25, 2022
What an incredible concert! Volti set the stage with the most illustrative of sounds, you could practically see the music as intensely as you could hear it. The a-cappella voice ensemble presented modern pieces that were inspired by poetry, a day in the desert, a remembrance of 9-11, and other current reflections that were familiar to the audience, and these pieces painted the scenes with bold strokes overlapping with whimsical, prayerful, giddy, mournful, and often reverent colors. The composers included percussive sounds and sliding-scales for which there are no symbols for annotating in musical scores, and the ensemble executed these exceptionally well, layering them over tonal progressions and melodies. The St. Paul’s Concert Series is new to current modern compositions, and we thank Volti for introducing us with this marvelous performance.
Temirzhan Yerzhanov: March 26, 2022
On Saturday, March 29, our featured guest Temirzhan Yerzhanov indulged our Concert Series audience in a splendid performance, which included piano pieces composed by Schubert and Liszt. From his past performances that we were so fortunate to host, our expectations were high. And alas, again what a phenomenal evening! Temirzhan performed the full “Sonata D960 in Bb Major” as the opening piece, which was intricate, beautiful, and sweet, with his masterful expressions of music flowing through the room. For the second half of the concert, he began with “Litany”, a Prayer for Peace (Schubert/Liszt) which he dedicated to the people of Ukraine. He then performed Liszt’s “Valse Impromptu (S213)” with such playfulness and beauty that you can almost see the garden’s trees and flowers dancing to the music! Then, for the last piece, his presentation of Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody No.12” was articulate, expressive, superb! For an encore, what a beautiful tribute to Liszt’s most popular piece, “Liebestraum”. Listening with eyes closed, you hear and feel the splendor of the composer and the artistic mastery of this performer. What an absolute treat for the senses! Temirzhan Yerzhanov is stellar, the Real Deal in world-class performers! We are so incredibly lucky to have him perform here!
Arthur Omura, Harpsichordist, Presenting “The Duels”: January 29, 2022
It’s mid-winter, a time for quietude and replenishing our energy reserves. Then enters the sound of harpsichord, with it’s ever crisp, yet gentle sound, luring us into thoughts of sunlight and rejuvenation, while being still respectful of a state of respite. The harpsichord is a wonderful instrument, with its pure, no-nonsense tone that yet inspires a lightness of thought and spirit. Matched with the mastery of the composers of the Baroque era, you are drawn in, and can’t help but feel the sunlight warming your senses. It’s just this experience that was given to us on January 29, as Arthur Omura presented his harpsichord program, “The Duels”, featuring pieces by Handel, Scarlatti, J.S. Bach, and Marchand. Underlying the beautiful Baroque collection of pieces, Mr. Omura gave us insight to the comradery and competitiveness of our four composers during their lives, and presented the succession of pieces masterfully, indicating the challenge and response of each composer with the lighting and extinguishing of candles. You can read more about The Duels by following the link provided in the video description of the Youtube recording of the concert.
Anna Maria Mendieta, Harpist: December 4, 2021
What is it about harp music that is so magical? It fills the room with vivid yet gentle colors. It whispers into our ears like the voices of angels, calling and coaxing us into a state of peacefulness. Our performance on December 4, featuring renowned harpist Anna Maria Mendieta did just that, as she played with such grace and poise. The program was dedicated to Christmas music, both sacred and classical, opening with Carol of the Bells. What Child is This, Coventry Carol, and so many others. In our Season of Anticipation, this concert was a gift, a perfect enhancement in our awaiting the promise of Jesus’ birth.
Heeguen Song and Peter Myers: November 13, 2021
On Saturday evening, we were treated to a stunningly beautiful performance by Heeguen Song on Violin and Peter Myers on cello. In their first-ever performance together, they presented a steller program of music that spoke directly to the soul, their instruments deftly entangling and luring the spirit with dancing tones and rhythms.
We were lured into the program with the delightful energy and playfulness of Beethoven’s Duo for Violin and Cello in C Major WoO 27. Our performers then presented a beautiful collage of pieces that flowed so gracefully from one to the next, including Varsha for Solo Cello by Reena Esmail, Adagio from Sonata No. 1 by J.S. Bach, and Eight Pieces for Violin and Cello, Op. 39 by Reinhold Gliere. You might have assumed they were written together by the same composer if you didn’t know otherwise, the flow from one to another was superb, tantalizing, and beautiful. After intermission, our performers presented Duo for Violin and Cello Op. 7 by Zoltan Kodaly, which had contemporary and even folksy themes woven through this bolstering and robust musical masterpiece. All throughout, our performers indulged us in absolute clarity and intense beauty from the interplay of their two instruments, as they presented such a delightful program with superb virtuosity and expression. What an incredible experience. What a night!
Misha Galant, Pianist: August 28, 2021
Have you ever been taken to that musical fold that transcends space and time, where your inner psyche is lured out to bask in the waves of incredible music? This was an experience I had while attending the recent concert of pianist Misha Galant. Not only was this concert a personal note of joy, but within minutes of the performance, I had the sense of greatness in this pianist. Mr. Galant is going to rock this world. In his performance, he lured us in with, what he described as the “appetizer”, performing Beethoven’s Sonata, Op.7 Allegro Molto e Con Brio. He then worked through a delectable second course of Chopin’s Waltz in Ab Major and Rachmaninoff’s Romance, Op. 21, “Lilacs“. Leading to the main course of Scriabin’s Sonatas No. 4 and 5, with dessert over Liszt-Volodos’ Hungarian Rhapsody No 13. I am satiated. I am transcended. As a recent graduate of Eastman/Juilliard, Mr. Galant performed for St. Paul’s in the midst of packing for his journey to Russia to start his Master’s Program for piano performance in Moscow. His expressive talents and absolute mastery of these 88 keys already intact, he is surely headed for the stars. All I can say is, “We knew him when…”
Natsuki Fukasawa, Steinway Pianist, June 19, 2021
What a splendid evening of music! Steinway Pianist Natsuki Fukasawa presented a most stunning program of classical piano. I was entranced throughout the whole evening. With agility and a mighty force, and yet tenderness of the most gracious of performers, Ms. Fukasawa performed a wonderful collection of pieces, including the sweet composition Invisibles, Opus 124 by Miguel del Águila and beautiful modern pieces such as Poulenc’s Mélancolie. Then, what an absolute treat of Rachmaninoff compositions for the second half of the performance. Nearly moved to tears, we listened to Rachmaninoff’s piece, Do Not Sing, My Beauty which was performed flawlessly and with the grace of angel wings. Then, when we thought the music couldn’t get any more beautiful, Ms. Fukasawa wrapped the performance up with Rachmaninoff’s Sonata No. 2 in B-flat Minor, Op. 36. Absolutely incredible. Outstanding. This music will be in my head for a long time to come.
Austin and Owens Guitar Duo, May 2021
Have you ever had a piece of music take you from the plain and drole, and sweep you into a new river of life and energy? This is exactly what this concert did for me. I felt like I was handed a personal invitation to jump into summer vacation. Straight out of a long work-day, and right into the deep end of a swimming pool. Our Concert Series presented the Guitar Duo, Austin and Owens in its May concert event, and this concert was incredible! Classically-trained, Austin & Owens performed both original pieces and all-time favorites from flamenco, jazz, and rock genres. They combined rhythm guitar and melody ad-lib, trading roles back and forth effortlessly on their “sister-made” guitars (both made from the same pieces of wood), with great energy, coolness, and virtuosity throughout the entire performance. Opening with original pieces “Ceago” and “Mojito”, the audience was warmed up with light but punctuated flamenco/jazz. Moving into the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black”, they turned up the energy a notch, and kept it on high octane throughout the rest of the performance. Then, ever-so-gently, they brought us back to earth with the sweetest song ever written, “Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers. They described their style as “dualing guitars”, where they would play off each other’s solos and take it up a notch, each time they traded rhythm and melody. The treat for the audience was that the solo and rhythm parts danced around and through each other, and then joining on culminating licks with such precision and coordination, it caught your ear, pulling you into their energy and all you could do is smile and blurt out, “Yeahh!!!”. Bring on summer! I’m ready now!
Konevets Quartet, April 2021
With the skills and wizardry of our technical team, we were able to host one of our favorite vocal groups, the Konevets Quartet at our Concert Series event last Saturday. The Konevets Quartet performed for us from the Church of the Nativity of the Theotokos, in St. Petersburg, Russia, while we hosted and broadcast the performance from our church! And, what a marvelous performance the Quartet brought us! Listening to the voices, it defined the absolute meaning of “ensemble”: Together, many making the voice of one. From a virtuosity perspective, the Quartet was superb; every phrase, rhythm, and sound they projected was perfectly aligned, perfectly executed. But, beyond the perfection of their technique, there was musicality; the sweetness that lured the soul out of the darkness and drew you in to listen and feel the music around you. The Quartet began their performance with a collection of songs of Holy Week and Easter, a time where we are all living right now. The beauty of music was soul-quenching, to say the least. Then, for the second half of the performance, they took us for a tour of places they have visited and studied to bring us their favorite folk tunes in the native languages. They presented songs of historic significance from Russia, Bosnia, Georgia, and Serbia, and even went westward, bringing us American Spirituals and a jazzed up version of Baa Baa Black Sheep that will be in my head for weeks. What a night! What a treat for us all!
Ensemble Ari, February 2021
You might say that Ensemble Ari performed with utmost and fine virtuosity at our concert event on Feb 20, but that would be a severe understatement of the experience I had while attending their performance. Now, being on the concert production team, I had a slight advantage over most concert attendees, where I was in the church with our performers during the concert. And, from where I was sitting, it was like the walls and the rafters in the church opened up to drink in the long-thirsted-for music all evening. I could feel the mastery of Heeguen Song as she brought to life Paganini’s Caprice for Solo Violin, and my senses danced with giddiness to Florence Price’s Fantasie Negre played by Sharon Lee Kim on piano. Nearly moved to tears, I was swept away with both the absolute sweetness and liveliness of Brahms’ Sonata No. 3 for Violin and Piano. The way the music just came alive with both tenderness and fortitude, I am humbled, smitten, and renewed. Thank you Ensemble Ari for such a wonderful evening!
Arthur Omura – Harpsichord and Organ, November 2020
On Saturday, November 28, St. Paul’s was treated to a splendid performance by Arthur Omura, on harpsichord and organ. Mr.Omura lured us into the mood with a soft and melodic presentation of Prelude in F Major for Harpsichord by Louis Couperin. He then launched a full-on display of virtuosity and musicianship, playing through the 18th Order collection by François Couperin and Suite in Re by Jacques DuPhly. With the touch of a master on the beautiful double-keyboard harpsichord, it was a beauty for both the eyes and ears to behold! For the second half of the concert, Mr. Omura presented early Organ pieces that display the wonders and breadth of this magnificent instrument! Thank you Arthur Omura for blessing us with such a wonderful evening of music during our Thanksgiving weekend!
MusAlliance Duo and Soprano Marina Tolstova, October 2020
The duo Musalliance presented a mastery of classical guitar and domra (similar to the mandolin) in their performance, with pieces ranging from Kozlov’s Flamenco Fantasy and Rimsy-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee, to Pizzicato from the ballet “Silvia” by Delibes and Marcello’s Adagio. Absolutely marvelous presentation of these pieces! Met with equal fortitude and beauty, Soprano Marina Tolstova joined this duo to add magic to the evening with a medley of pieces dedicated to Ave Maria (Bach/Gonoud, Schubert, and Vavilov), Mozart’s Laudate Dominum, Delibes’ Bolero from “Les Filles de Cadiz”, and a special favorite, Villa-Lobos’ Aria from Bachianas Brasileiras no. 5. Such beautiful sound from this ensemble, a truly magical evening!
DuoSF Classical Guitar Duo, September 2020
On September 19, we were treated to a delightful concert of classical guitar music, featuring DuoSF, a phenomenal guitar duet from San Francisco. Like a summer breeze, this duo sent such delicate music wafting through the air, waking our senses to the sweetness of Scarlotti’s Sonata K #466, then to a modern beat of a Beatles medley, and even a hearty chuckle through the sounds of ducks taking flight in Domeniconi’s “The Circus”. Guitarists Christopher Mallett and Robert Miller displayed the virtuosity of true masters, and treated us to an evening of musical joy. Just what the doctor ordered!
Anna Maria Mendieta, Harpist, August 2020
The harp is a heavenly instrument! None could be truer of the performance on August 29, presented by Anna Maria Mendieta. The music that she created went beyond our mere mortal ears to enjoy; it was for the heavens to exclaim the joy of creation! Ms. Mendieta lured us into an evening of pure delight, presenting favorite pieces such as Greensleeves, Gigue, Salzedo’s Chanson de la Nuit, and so many others. And as a great teacher, she described the history of this wonderful instrument and the music that was created for it as the instrument’s shape and form evolved through the years. And, we are endebted to Ms. Mendieta for being our first online broadcast performer, and helping us with concert planning and broadcasting. She taught us so much, and we applied everything we learned to enhance our online broadcasts going forward! Brava! What a fabulous evening!
Temirzhan Yerzhanov: Concert Pianist, February 2020
It was a performance that transformed me. Was I in the front row of Davies Symphony Hall, taking in the most incredible live piano concert that I had every attended? But wait, no, I am here at St. Paul’s, and yes, this IS still the most brilliant live piano concert I have ever experienced. Temirzhan Yerzhanov presented his program superbly, in both virtuosity and artistic expression, and I was moved to the point of having no words to describe the beauty I experienced that evening. Yerzhanov began his program with Mozart’s Fantasy in D Minor, which was light and playful, and led beautifully into the contrasting emotions of all 22 movements of Schumann’s Carnival, Opus 9. After intermission, Yerzhanof presented the five movements of Edward Grieg’s Holberg’s Times, Opus 40 , of which I previously doubted if there was a human alive that could play this piece well, and oh my, he played it well! I was then swept up with an involuntary move to my feet at the conclusion of his final piece, Chopin’s Ballad #4, Opus 52. What an incredible, outstanding performance. I felt afterward that the audience was all transformed with me, questioning themselves, “Did we really just experience that?” Wow! Yes, we did!
Rena Harms and Anyssa Neumann, Soprano and Piano, January 2020
I entered the concert with excited expectations, and by the end, “Wow!” is the only word that described the experience. Rena Harms, Soprano, and Anyssa Neumann, Piano, are a true duo of virtuosity and artistic expression. Their performance with our Concert Series on 1/25 began with Four Songs (Opus 2) by Arnold Schoenberg. These pieces, almost compulsery in nature, separate the masters from the others, and our duo performed them with finesse and strength, setting the audience on high alert that this was going to be a night to remember. The duo then presented songs from Barber Vaughn-Williams, Strauss, Puccini, and Verdi, again all with strength and delicacy of accomplished world-class performers. They then saved a little-known unpublished gem called “Evening Star” by George Gershwin as the final gift to our thrilled audience. Keep a watch on these two performers; they are shining stars!
William Feasley, Guitarist. February 2018
The room was hushed, the lights were dimmed, and the sound of classical guitar entered the air. William Feasley, our featured performer, presented a wonderful collection of Spanish and Brazilian classical guitar favorites, accompanied by paintings by Francisco Goya projected alongside on stage. Feasley’s musical interpretations were delivered with impeccable style and articulation, he is a true master at his craft. Feasley’s interaction with the audience was so pleasant and light-hearted, it truly wrapped the evening as a concert favorite in our Series.
Temirzhan Yerzhonov, Pianist. October 2018
Those of us lucky enough to attend S. F. Symphony concerts may get to experience one musical piece, lasting maybe 45 minutes, featuring a world class guest artist. On October 20, those of us lucky enough to be at the Temirzhan Yerzhonov concert at St. Paul’s were treated to almost two hours of exquisite world class piano music. In St Paul’s intimate setting, most of the audience could also enjoy watching the pianist’s full engagement with the instrument, as well.
The program opened with Schumann’s Papillons, intense cords interspaced with lilting, and waltz-like playfulness. This was followed by six lyric pieces by Grieg including Butterfly, with an entirely different take than the Schumann, and the more familiar March of the Dwarfs. Each piece was evocative of its subject, ranging from sweet and pretty to lively; all showing off Mr. Yerzhonov’s masterful talent. Before the intermission, we were treated to a complex Chopin Scherzo, which left the audience in awe of the artist’s range. “Wow!” is what many could not help but commenting.
After the intermission, we were treated to two big, rich Rachmaninov Etudes-Tableaux. Continuing the Russian theme, a Tchaikovsky Grande Sonata followed, opening with a bold statement and a march of progressive cords, continuing with a quiet simple lament interspersed with lyrical melody.