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Choral and Vocal
A SEASONAL MESSIAH WITH BALANCE AND HEFT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 10, 2017
The mid-December concert season seems for jaded reviewers to invariably include a Messiah performance, and perhaps a Messiah in a long string of similar and mundane performances. This was decidedly not the case when San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque mounted Handel’s eminent three-part 1742 Orato...
Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony concert featured two elegant and refined guests: music director candidate Andrew Grams and pianist Stewart Goodyear. Both displayed dazzling technique and consummate artistry, but Goodyear was the more consistent of the two. Some of Grams’ inconsistency may have st...
Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
Chamber
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the ...
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.