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Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
Chamber
UNEXPECTED ARENSKY AND MENDELSSOHN BY THE NAVARRO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
The 100 people entering Schroeder Hall Feb. 17 for a Trio Navarro concert were handed a program that appeared to feature two popular piano trios, Mendelssohn and Arensky. But continuing the Navarro’s tradition of repertoire exploration, the pieces were not the usual first Mendelssohn and first Aren...
Recital
GLOVER'S ECLECTIC PROGRAMMING HIGHLIGHT'S CINNABAR RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
Daniel Glover is arguably the busiest virtuoso pianist in the San Francisco Bay area, but rarely is heard in North Bay concerts. So 90 local pianophiles were anxious to hear him Feb. 17 in Petaluma’s charming small Cinnabar Theater, and they were rewarded with an eclectic program of sometimes unfam...
Symphony
MENDELSSOHN'S SCOTTISH SAVES THE EVENING IN SRS WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Monday, February 11, 2019
The audience entering Weill Hall for Santa Rosa Symphony concerts Feb. 9-11 were presented with a program that on first glance appeared a curious patchwork – a great symphony mixed with a seldom heard concerto and two disparate overtures, and a guest conductor unknown locally. Monday night’s concer...
Recital
INTRIGUING BELL-HAYWOOD RECITAL BEFORE FULL HOUSE IN WEILL HALL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, February 08, 2019
A big portion of the capacity audience in Weill Hall February 8th came to hear violinist Joshua Bell’s virtuosity, and were treated as well to splendid playing from Sam Haywood, Mr. Bell’s regular pianist since 2010. The duo performed three engaging sonatas, highlighted by Mr. Bell’s sterling techn...
Symphony
TRIPLE PLAY UKIAH SYMPHONY CONCERT AND TCHAIKOVSKY SERENADE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Over the years the Ukiah Symphony’s concerts have been in the Classical Sonoma Calendar sections, but rarely has this Orchestra, now in its 39th season, had a full winter season concert review. The provocative Jan. 27 program in Mendocino College’s Center Theater seemed a good reason to reacquaint ...
Symphony
JACKSON THEATER WELCOMES A NEW RESIDENT ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Moving to a permanent new performance venue can be a perilous undertaking for an orchestra, with different acoustics, the loyal audience finding the new spot and infrastructure challenges of lighting and lobby and backstage operations. In their first concert Jan. 26 in Windsor’s Jackson Theater the...
Symphony
ECLECTIC PASSIONATE PROGRAMMING AT MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 26, 2019
The Marin Symphony’s second Masterworks concert of the 2018-19 season featured works by John Adams, Sibelius and Brahms, a masterful assembly. In a spoken introduction before the program’s first half, conductor Alasdair Neale primed the audience for the “terra incognita” of Adams’ The Chairman Dance...
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.