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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 ...
RECITAL REVIEW
Music at Oakmont / Thursday, February 13, 2014
Ching-Yun Hu, piano

Pianist Ching-Yun Hu

HU'S ON FIRST, SECOND AND THIRD

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 13, 2014

Music at Oakmont in their eight-concert season features mostly instrumental ensembles, and rarely pianists. But when they do the pianists are pretty good. Ching-Yun Hu's performance Feb.13 in Berger Auditorium, for example, was at a first-cabin level of virtuosity.

A conventional repertoire first half included Chopin (the Second Sonata in B-Flat Minor) and Ravel’s "Gaspard de la Nuit," and the entire second part was pungent Spanish music. The Sonata emphasized the house piano’s bright treble register and was dramatic throughout. Ms. Hu took the controversial step of skipping the big first-movement repeat, and after the movement’s final doubled-down B flat chord she waded immediately into the superbly pianistic Scherzo. Here the ritards were sculpted, but the movement was played without sufficient verve or personality.

The familiar "Marche Funèbre" movement was played as slow as I have ever heard it. Ms. Hu's control here was total, as was her mastery in the splendid finale (Presto), which she played with minimal pedal, showcasing Chopin’s almost atonal sonority and chromaticism to mysterious effect.

Ravel's "Gaspard" closed the first half, and unlike Jean Efflam Bavouzet's muscular November performance at SRJC, Ms. Hu adopted judicious tempos and textures throughout this masterpiece from 1908. The flowing left-hand melody was constantly played pianissimo and evoked the fluid surroundings of the water sprite Ondine. It shimmered where it should have shimmered. The middle "Le Gibet" movement was played with a leisurely pace, lovely tone and a strong hint of mystery.

The great "Scarbo" finale was masterfully done, the finger articulation crisp and the damper pedal used sparingly. Ms. Hu alternated voices that were distinct and then hazy in this diabolic challenge to a pianist's technique.

Four works by Granados and a single work from Albéniz's "Iberia" (Book II) were played after intermission. The angst and longing of "El Amor y la Muerte" was vividly portrayed by Ms. Hu, her rhythmic flexibility and focus on interplay of voices always commanding. In Granados' "Oriental, No. 2" of the Op. 37 "Danzas Españolas," the short work was played rather roughly, the hard tone at times needed by the music and to be heard over Berger's audible HVAC system. "Andaluza" (Op. 37, No. 5) was deftly played.

Albéniz's "Triana" closed the formal recital. Here Ms. Hu played the off-beat accents and big contrasts with joy and abandon. It was Spanish splendor and brought a large ovation.

In a surprise encore selection, the pianist departed from the piquant Spanish rhythms and played one of Chopin’s greatest Nocturnes, the languorous and poignant E Flat of Op. 55. The performance was laced with grace and subtle inner voices that caught the "light beam" high E Flats in the right hand to telling effect.