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Recital
SCHUMANN AND BARTOK HIGHLIGHT BRONFMAN RECITAL IN WEILL
by Lee Ormasa
Friday, April 21, 2017
Those people once addicted to the “Angry Birds” game application likely suffered an auditory flashback during the opening measures of the allegro from Bartok’s Suite, Op. 14, the opening work in Yefim Bronfman’s April 21 recital at Weill Hall. The repetitive opening figures of the Bartok were...
Symphony
HULKING MAHLER "TITAN" AT SO CO PHIL'S SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 08, 2017
A composer’s first symphony rarely gives a clear indication of what beautiful complexities will follow over the years. Early Mozart and Tchaikovsky are examples, and the big exceptions to this axiom are the “firsts” of Beethoven, Shostakovich and Mahler. Tackling Mahler ‘s D Major Symphony (No. 1,...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY STAYS CLOSE TO HOME
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 26, 2017
Santa Rosa Symphony concerts usually feature high-powered soloists imported from afar, but for their recent “Bring on the Strings” concert set, they stuck close to home, thrusting their principal violin, viola and cello into the limelight. The violinist (Joseph Edelberg) and the violist (Elizabeth P...
Recital
SLAM BANG SONORITY IN HAOCHEN ZHANG'S SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 19, 2017
Piano Competition winners are in ample supply, and it’s often a hit and miss proposition as to their sterling interpretative qualities. However, the quadrennial Van Cliburn Competition in Ft. Worth has continually produced top-level artists, and the 2009 winner Haochen Zhang proved a formidable per...
Symphony
FOREIGN AFFAIRS CHARACTERS OF THE BAROQUE
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, known as Akamus, played a Weill Hall concert March 12 in a program called "Foreign Affairs -Characters of the Baroque.” The ensemble, that began in 1984, has 15 musicians led by concert master Bernhard Forck. Attired in elegant black with red accents, ranging from tie...
Recital
MUSCULAR PIANISM DOMINATES MILL VALLEY CHAMBER SOCIETY RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Piano recitals since the beginning of the genre open with finger pieces - Scarlatti or Soler Sonatas, Bach, a Mendelssohn Prelude and Fugue or perhaps Mozart or Haydn. Sarah Daneshpour’s March 12 opening work at the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society series abruptly avoided the norm with the 10-minut...
Recital
NOVEL HAYDN AND SCHUMANN IN YARDEN'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, March 09, 2017
Israeli pianist Einav Yarden has been a frequent Sonoma County visitor, playing private recitals for Spring Lake Village and Concerts Grand, and twice performing for Music at Oakmont. The Berlin-based artist returned to Oakmont’s Berger Auditorium March 9 with a program that was neither for connois...
Chamber
CONSUMMATE ENSEMBLE FROM THE MIRÓ IN WEILL
by Sonia Tubridy and Nicki Bell
Sunday, March 05, 2017
A March 5 Weill hall audience of 350 leaned in to share an intimate musical space and to hear the Miró String Quartet’s sterling concert. Starting with Haydn's Op. 20, No. 4, the four musicians seemed to want listeners to be enveloped in their music. The Miró plays with the feat of being four dist...
Recital
BRILLIANT VIOLIN AND PIANO ARTISTRY CHARMS SCHROEDER HALL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 26, 2017
A tiny Schroeder Hall audience heard a flawless recital Feb. 26 by Yu-Chien Tseng, arguably the best recent local violin recital since Gil Shaham’s transversal of the complete Bach Suites in Weill and Frank Almond’s Oakmont recital in 2015. Muscular playing was the afternoon’s norm, and with pianis...
Chamber
MUSIC AND ART MELD IN ZUCKERMAN TRIO CONCERT
by Nicki Bell
Friday, February 24, 2017
A Feb. 24 Weill Hall concert by the Pinchas Zuckerman Trio juxtaposed formidable music making with palpable associations about visual art. Brahms’ C Minor "Sonatensatz” (Scherzo) is a short youthful work for violin and piano, and was an opening call to action. Lively and vigorous playing alternated...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
American Philharmonic Sonoma County / Saturday, November 16, 2013
Norman Gamboa, conductor. Alice Zhu, piano

Pianist Alice Zhu

POLISH, WITH POLISH

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 16, 2013

As with many orchestras, the American Philharmonic Sonoma County (APSC) produces programs with a theme, and the Nov. 16 concert in the Santa Rosa High School Performing Arts Auditorium had the title "Polish." But only Chopin's E Minor Piano Concerto was the genuine article, though the companion Third Tchaikovsky Symphony, Op. 29 ("Polish"), was the star of the show.

Alice Zhu was the soloist in the Concerto, the engagement related to her being awarded the Orchestra's young artist prize in 2012. The work, from 1829, is lyrical throughout, even more melodic than the better-known and architecturally tighter F Minor Concerto. There was no orchestraal cut in the long introduction. Conductor Norman Gamboa elicited a muscular reading, with Ms. Zhu matching their forceful presentation--a needed approach, as the hall's resident 72-year old piano has slipped below a professional level. The days of Perahia and Laredo performances on that piano are long gone.

The pianist had a fine grasp of Chopin's evanescent rubato and the vocal nature of the opening Allegro, but the instrument's monochromatic sound made the cadenza seem harsh. Conditions improved in the lyrical Romanza, with its melting opening passage for the violins, and Ms. Zhu deftly shaped the long line and subtle phrases. The duos between soloist and horns were charming, but the movement's last chords were abrupt rather than shimmering.

Mr. Gamboa chose a judicious tempo for the finale, the Concerto's most technically challenging in ensemble, and Ms. Zhu's adept scale playing could always be heard over the frequently loud orchestra.

After intermission and the traditional raffle prize announcements, the APSC played the 47-minute Tchaikovsky Symphony with affection and sporadic brilliance. The five-movement work from 1875 possesses much of the thematic development and powerful dramatic effects heard in the composer's more popular last three symphonies. Throughout the Symphony, the horns had a workout, especially in the mournful Andante Elegioco, and the playing of bassoonist Miranda Kincaid, oboist Chris Krive and flutists Debra Scheuerman and Emily Reynolds was outstanding. The APSC had developed a first-cabin wind section, deep-toned and precise.

Throughout the Symphony, the low strings tended to overpower the violin sound, especially in sonorous passages, but even in Tchaikovsky's extended use of pizzicato. This probably was a result of the auditorium's acoustics rather than an underpowered violin section, but the effect of robust cellos and the three bass viols was pungent. Mr. Gamboa led an exuberant Allegro con fuoco finale, underlining each fugal entry, and letting the brass sections generate a prodigious sound. Trombonists Jeff Barnard and Bill Welsh and trumpeters Karl Johnston and David Lindgren were everywhere sonorous and secure, as was solo timpanist Joseph Lang.

The APSC has developed a substantial command of weighty works under Mr. Gamboa's flexible baton, a likely indication that Tchaikovsky's great final symphonies will be on future programs, along with those of his peers.