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Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
Symphony
PEACE AND LOVE FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 04, 2018
Before the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 4 performance of Leonard Bernstein’s “Symphonic Dances from West Side Story,” Symphony CEO Alan Silow took a moment to acknowledge the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack and to observe that music offers a more peaceful and loving view of the world. Mr. ...
Chamber
ATOS TRIO IN MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 04, 2018
When the ATOS Piano Trio planned their all-Russian touring program at their Berlin home base, it had a strong elegiac, even tragic theme that surely resonated with their Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience Nov. 4 in Mill Valley. Comprised of Annette von Hehn, violin; Thomas Hoppe, piano; and...
Chamber
ATOS TRIO IN OCCIDENTAL CHAMBER CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 03, 2018
When the Berlin-based ATOS Piano Trio entered the cramped Occidental Performing Arts stage Nov. 3, the audience of 100 anticipated familiar works in the announced all-Russian program. What they got was a selection of rarely-plays trios, with a gamut of emotions. Then one-movement Rachmaninoff G Mi...
Symphony
MIGHTY SHOSTAKOVICH 10TH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 28, 2018
Just two works were on the opening program of the Marin Symphony’s 67th season Oct. 28, Tchaikovsky’s iconic D Major Violin Concerto, and Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony. Before a full house in the Marin Center Auditorium conductor Alasdair Neale set a judicious opening tempo in the brief orchestra i...
Symphony
VIVALDI FOR ALL SEASONS IN WEILL BAROQUE CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, October 27, 2018
The Venice Baroque Orchestra, a dozen superb musicians that include strings, harpsichord and recorder, played an uplifting concert Oct. 27 of mostly Vivaldi sinfonias and concertos. The Weill Hall audience of 600 had rapt attention throughout, and the playing was of the highest musical level. This r...
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 isn’t over until the shouting fades away. With the brand-new Weill Hall’s rear wall raised and the evening breezes flowing, the applause from the second and last encore of pianist Lang Lang’s 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 artist’s recordings of Haydn sonatas are familiar, but the three Mozart sonatas comprising the entire first half represented Mr. Lang’s first traversal of these works in public performance. Nonetheless, the characteristics of Mr. Lang’s 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 pianist’s repose and tranquil tempos were captivating, demonstrating that spiritual excitement doesn’t 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. Lang’s signature romantic mannerisms and subtle teasing of phrase endings.

Mozart’s A Minor Sonata, K. 310, dramatically closed the first half. Long rumored to be associated with the death of the composer’s 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. Lang’s control of pianissimo was superlative, and he deftly shaped trills, often with balanced crescendos. His interpretations may not have been Mozart to everyone’s 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 Chopin’s 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. Lang’s 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 didn’t 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 didn’t do in the F Minor Ballade and elsewhere was to celebrate the vocal nature, albeit a dark one, in so much of Chopin’s music. Toward the end of the Ballade, the great tenor voice and agitated inner left-hand line were sonically lost in the pianist’s 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 Chopin’s 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.