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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...
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.