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Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
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.