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Symphony
CONDUCTOR PLAYOFFS BEGIN IN SANTA ROSA
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 08, 2017
The Santa Rosa Symphony is calling 2017-18 “a choice season” because the next few months offer the audience and the symphony’s board of directors a chance to choose a new conductor from a pool of five candidates. Each candidate will lead a three-concert weekend set this fall and winter, with a final...
Symphony
DVORAK AND TCHAIKOVSKY ORCHESTRAL COLOR AT SO CO PHIL SEASON OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 30, 2017
A concert with curious repertoire and splashy orchestral color launched the 19th season of the Sonoma County Philharmonic Sept. 30 in Santa Rosa High School’s Auditorium. Why curious? Conductor Norman Gamboa paired the ever-popular Dvorak and his rarely heard 1891 trilogy In Nature’s Realm, with t...
Recital
ELEGANT PIANISM IN WATER MUSIC CHARMS HOUSE RECITAL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 03, 2017
A standard component of house concerts often involve listeners hearing the music but also smelling the lasagna and seeing the champagne in the adjacent kitchen. But it was not the case Sept. 3 at Sandra Shen’s Concerts Grand House Recital performance, as her riveting piano playing enthralled the sm...
Chamber
YOUNG MUSICIANS SHINE AT PIANO SONOMA CONCERT
by Lee Ormasa
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
The third in a series of four concerts by Piano Sonoma artists in residence, part of the Vino and Vibrato Series, was held August 1 in Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center. Entitled “The Masters,” the program included works by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. Piano Sonoma is a summer artist-in...
Chamber
THRILLING PROGRAM CLOSES VOM CHAMBER FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, July 30, 2017
The finale of the two-week Valley of the Moon Music Festival closed July 30 with “The Age of Bravura” concert at the Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. The musical selections held to this year’s Festival theme “Schumann’s World - His Music and the Music He Loved.“ This summer Festival features chamber mus...
Chamber
PERIOD INSTRUMENTAL SOUND AT PENULTIMATE VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 30, 2017
In the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival’s penultimate concert July 30 the perennial issue of period and modern instruments was apparent. But only in the concluding Mendelssohn Trio, as the performances in the two first half works easily avoided instrumental comparisons. Clara Schumann’s t...
Chamber
ECLECTIC REPERTOIRE IN FETCHING VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 22, 2017
One of the purposes of summer music festivals is to present unfamiliar music in an attractive and often small audience setting. The Valley of the Moon Music Festival delightfully met these requirements July 22 and 23 with two concerts in the small hall at Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. Classical Sono...
Recital
ADAMS' PHRYGIAN GATES HIGHLIGHTS MORKOSKI FESTIVAL PERFORMANCE
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Attendees at the Molly Morkoski Mendocino Music Festival recital July 22 were in for a treat, both pianistically and if they happened to buy a tasty cookie during intermission. The program included Beethoven’s Op. 27 Moonlight Sonata, Adams’ Phrygian Gates, a surprise add-on of Grieg’s Holberg Suit...
Symphony
SOARING VERDI REQUIEM CLOSES 31ST MENDOCINO FESTIVAL
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
We speak frequently about how there is nothing like the experience of a live performance. Seldom was this truer than at the July 22 closing performance of the two-week Mendocino Music Festival. The Festival Orchestra, conducted by of Allan Pollack, joined with the Festival Chorus in a moving renderi...
Recital
ORGAN REGISTRATION MASTERY HEARD IN WALHAIN'S RECITAL
by Robert Young
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
A group of 65 lucky attendees July 18 had the pleasure of hearing Etienne Walhain’s recital at the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa. Mr. Walhain is organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Tournai, Belgium, and played to a varied program Bach, Franck, and Reger. He used the tonal resource...
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.