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Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint SaŽns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestraís new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasserís Sonoma Overt...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
Chamber
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, perfor...
Symphony
AMERICAN CLASSICS SPARKLE UNDER KAHANEíS BATON
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Jeffrey Kahane, the Santa Rosa Symphonyís former conductor, returned to the Weill Hall podium on Saturday night, and the results were expectedly wonderful. The concert of American classics was by turns playful (Gershwinís ďAn American in ParisĒ), emotional (Barberís violin concerto) and triumphant (...
Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Villageís monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trioís performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosaís premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarroís late February concert in Sonoma Stateís Schroeder Hall, Northern Californiaís other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican Universityís Angelico Hall. Clearly each hallís acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
RECITAL REVIEW
Weill Hall, Green Music Center / Saturday, September 29, 2012
Lang Lang, piano

Lang Lang Anouncing Chopin Encore in Weill (Judy McNeill Photo)

LANG LANG CHRISTENS WEILL HALL WITH MUSICAL SPLENDOR

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 29, 2012

The show isnít over until the shouting fades away. With the brand-new Weill Hallís rear wall raised and the evening breezes flowing, the applause from the second and last encore of pianist Lang Langís Sept. 29 opening recital might have been heard all the way to Petaluma. It was that kind of concert, unique and memorable.

After more than a decade of construction delays and massive cost overruns, the centerpiece hall of the Green Music Center finally opened with the Chinese superstar kicking off a gala weekend of symphony, choral and pops events. Before 1,400 inside and an estimated 1,000 outside, the pianist delivered sonic and musical goods that were at all times exceptionally exciting but at others equally perplexing.

The artistís recordings of Haydn sonatas are familiar, but the three Mozart sonatas comprising the entire first half represented Mr. Langís first traversal of these works in public performance. Nonetheless, the characteristics of Mr. Langís Haydn were everywhere in evidence--crisp articulation, scintillating scale passages and sharp rhythmic contrasts. Graceful indeed was the Andante of the Sonata in G, K. 283, and the Presto finale with swift arpeggios and snappy accents was a delight.

More reflective Mozart appeared in the dreamy first movement of the E Flat Sonata, K. 282. Here the pianistís repose and tranquil tempos were captivating, demonstrating that spiritual excitement doesnít have to be strident. The finale was a feast of rapid crystalline scales, generating loud applause from the audience. It was a performance similar to that of Mitsuko Uchida, but with an added layer of Mr. Langís signature romantic mannerisms and subtle teasing of phrase endings.

Mozartís A Minor Sonata, K. 310, dramatically closed the first half. Long rumored to be associated with the death of the composerís mother, the A Minor is tragic throughout. Mr. Lang brought out the sad majesty in the opening Allegro Maestoso, beginning at a furious clip that never subsided until the final three chords. The single-note repetitions in the Andante Cantabile were played slower than usual, with perfectly weighed trills and a singing line in the right hand.

The artist presented a forceful case in the somber but agitated finale. The persistent rhythmic patterns and tricky leaps were accurate, and the momentum was palpable--yet the music never sounded manic. Indeed, all through the Mozart sonatas, Mr. Langís control of pianissimo was superlative, and he deftly shaped trills, often with balanced crescendos. His interpretations may not have been Mozart to everyoneís taste, but I found them effervescent and convincing.

The quartet of Chopin Ballades on the second half is a big undertaking for any pianist, each telling a story of grandeur, pathos and nobility hand in hand with formidable technical demands for the performer. Mr. Lang fearlessly launched into the popular G Minor Ballade, unfolding the narrative enticingly in each of the seven phrase statements. He played the big legato octaves brilliantly and carefully slowed their downward march. The coda was tremendous, drawing a round of bravos from the audience. The pianist clearly had the well-dressed crowd in his musical pocket at this stage of the recital.

A long and simple folk-like introduction begins the F Major Ballade, and Mr. Lang played it with restraint, jumping into the subsequent cascades of sonorities with great passion. His strong fingers carried the day in the coda. This approach continued in the popular A Flat Ballade, arguably the least difficult of the four. Here Mr. Lang was in a playful mood, underscoring an occasional bass note and stretching the rhythms in the recapitulation. His pedaling throughout produced a perfect legato. The last chords exalted.

One of Chopinís greatest creations finished the recital: the F Minor Ballade. Inside of 10 minutes of playing time the genius Polish composer presents a broad range of emotions--ardor, resignation, heroism, majesty. Mr. Langís traversal of this amazing work was at every turn exciting, but the whole was not quite equal to the sum of its parts, more so for what he didnít do than for what he did. Technically Mr. Lang nailed everything. The double-note passages were sharply etched, and he lingered just the right amount of time in the short chorale section. Just before the coda, where the sonic tension has peaked, Mr. Lang played the five pianissimo chords that quelled the fury and heightened the mystery of the stormy final bars. It was mesmerizing and drew a raucous standing ovation.

What Mr. Lang didnít do in the F Minor Ballade and elsewhere was to celebrate the vocal nature, albeit a dark one, in so much of Chopinís music. Toward the end of the Ballade, the great tenor voice and agitated inner left-hand line were sonically lost in the pianistís demonic drive to get to the five leavening chords, the hurricane of the coda and the finishing fortissimo. Nonetheless, the reading elicited a tsunami of applause and cheers extending beyond the video screens outside the hall and across the campus illuminated by a harvest moon.

Mr. Lang offered two encores, beginning with a languorous performance of Chopinís E Flat Nocturne, which although tonally splendid needed some rhythmic flexibility. The D Flat Waltz (Minute) followed, incessantly beguiling in its droll effects. The audience roared approval at the last left-hand staccato note (he didn't play the written chord) and recalled the pianist several more times to the stage.

Lang Lang is a consummate pianist who clearly revels in giving an audience an intoxicating mix of musical artistry and entertainment, a sterling combination for the Weill Hall opening concert.