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Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s 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 Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s 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...
Chamber
UNEXPECTED ARENSKY AND MENDELSSOHN BY THE NAVARRO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
The 100 people entering Schroeder Hall Feb. 17 for a Trio Navarro concert were handed a program that appeared to feature two popular piano trios, Mendelssohn and Arensky. But continuing the Navarro’s tradition of repertoire exploration, the pieces were not the usual first Mendelssohn and first Aren...
Recital
GLOVER'S ECLECTIC PROGRAMMING HIGHLIGHT'S CINNABAR RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
Daniel Glover is arguably the busiest virtuoso pianist in the San Francisco Bay area, but rarely is heard in North Bay concerts. So 90 local pianophiles were anxious to hear him Feb. 17 in Petaluma’s charming small Cinnabar Theater, and they were rewarded with an eclectic program of sometimes unfam...
Symphony
MENDELSSOHN'S SCOTTISH SAVES THE EVENING IN SRS WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Monday, February 11, 2019
The audience entering Weill Hall for Santa Rosa Symphony concerts Feb. 9-11 were presented with a program that on first glance appeared a curious patchwork – a great symphony mixed with a seldom heard concerto and two disparate overtures, and a guest conductor unknown locally. Monday night’s concer...
Recital
INTRIGUING BELL-HAYWOOD RECITAL BEFORE FULL HOUSE IN WEILL HALL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, February 08, 2019
A big portion of the capacity audience in Weill Hall February 8th came to hear violinist Joshua Bell’s virtuosity, and were treated as well to splendid playing from Sam Haywood, Mr. Bell’s regular pianist since 2010. The duo performed three engaging sonatas, highlighted by Mr. Bell’s sterling techn...
Symphony
TRIPLE PLAY UKIAH SYMPHONY CONCERT AND TCHAIKOVSKY SERENADE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Over the years the Ukiah Symphony’s concerts have been in the Classical Sonoma Calendar sections, but rarely has this Orchestra, now in its 39th season, had a full winter season concert review. The provocative Jan. 27 program in Mendocino College’s Center Theater seemed a good reason to reacquaint ...
Symphony
JACKSON THEATER WELCOMES A NEW RESIDENT ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Moving to a permanent new performance venue can be a perilous undertaking for an orchestra, with different acoustics, the loyal audience finding the new spot and infrastructure challenges of lighting and lobby and backstage operations. In their first concert Jan. 26 in Windsor’s Jackson Theater the...
Symphony
ECLECTIC PASSIONATE PROGRAMMING AT MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 26, 2019
The Marin Symphony’s second Masterworks concert of the 2018-19 season featured works by John Adams, Sibelius and Brahms, a masterful assembly. In a spoken introduction before the program’s first half, conductor Alasdair Neale primed the audience for the “terra incognita” of Adams’ The Chairman Dance...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Oakmont Concert Series / Thursday, August 14, 2008
JOEL FAN, CONCERT PIANIST

JOEL FAN

PIANIST ON THE MOVE

by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Joel Fan is a pianist on the move. On August 14, in his second Oakmont Concert Series performance in the past three years, he commanded the stage with boundless energy and gave an eclectic program heavy on thunder and excitement.

His concert was billed as music from North and South America, but somehow Beethoven's A-Flat Major Sonata, Op. 110, was squeezed in to end the first half, and it received a committed performance, full of nuance and occasional mystery. The opening Moderato Cantabile was pensive, with the left hand trills evocative. A crisp and lyric reading of the scherzo-like Adagio led to the majestic concluding fugue, which Fan paced with great care. Although Fan's performance of the noble fugue wasn't monumental, the end arrived with great dignity.

Ginastera's Sonata No. 1 began the afternoon. Fan emphasized the similarities to Prokofiev's early sonatas in the first movement, and he floated three high notes with aplomb, ending the Adagio molto appassionato. The restless toccata finishing the work was a percussive and high energy journey under Fan's fleet fingers. However, the piano sound at the top end became increasingly brittle, particularly when Fan demanded a lot of volume, indicating some attention to hammer voicing may be in order.

Two short works by Nazareth and Piazzola (the latter a lovely Prelude from 1987, similar to the composer's 'Oblivion') led to 'Troubled Water,' by Chicago composer Margaret Bonds. Fan brought out the rhythmic complexities and insistent syncopation, but the piece ultimately lacked interest. Nonetheless, Bonds, the teacher of Ned Rorem, was a welcome and rare addition to the program.

A quite different experience was the Barber Sonata, a 1949 work that has become a repertoire staple. I have always liked the live Cliburn performance from his second Soviet Union tour of 1960, and the more relaxed approach from Arizona pianist Nicholas Zumbro. Fan veered towards the Cliburn reading, seizing the dissonant block chords in the first movement and underscoring the vacillating double and triple meters. The performance of the second movement, Allegro vivace, was simply masterful, full of whimsy and subtle phrasing. The Allegro mesto was a dirge, leaving the audience adrift in a luxurious sonic fog, with Fan tolling bells with his left hand. Wonderful. The famous concluding fugue was taken at a quick clip, control almost being lost in several places, and the contrary-motion octaves at the end lacked clarity. That said, it was a riveting performance, fully realized, and the highlight of the recital.

To conclude a day of energetic pieces, Fan played Liszt's 'Rigoletto Paraphrase' dramatically; but this Verdi homage is not quite yet Fan's piece. What was missing was repose among the tumult, real legato octaves among the bravura, and a more chaste use of the pedal. One can get away with a lot in this piece, and Fan let out all the pianistic stops to the acclaim of the large audience. One left the hall humming the famous Quartet theme, surely what the Weimar master would have wanted.

Joel Fan taped a deep vein of energy in this recital, and he seemed likely to repeat the entire event if an appropriate request was offered. He is a formidable artist with an innovating and inquisitive musical nature.