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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
Mendocino Music Festival / Thursday, July 16, 2015
Ching-Yun Hu, piano

Pianist Ching-Yun Hu

ELEGANT SCRIABIN, CHOPIN AND GRANADOS IN MENDO FESTIVAL RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 16, 2015

Taiwanese pianist Ching-Yun Hu made a formidable Mendocino Music Festival debut recital July 16 in Mendocino’s Preston Hall.

A full house warmly greeted the diminutive artist, and she responded with a pensive and then dramatic performance of Scriabin’s Sonata Fantasy, Op. 19. Writers refer to this work as related to the sea, appropriate to this venue where at intervals the distant surf can be heard. This year is the 100th anniversary of Scriabin’s death, and the G-Sharp Minor Sonata has become, with the exception of the composer’s Fifth Sonata, the most often played.

Ms. Hu deftly combined the concentrated lyricism of the first part with the stormy flights in the second Presto part. And she didn’t stint on damper pedal use, and the music needs a lot. The house piano, adequate if not exceptional, is voiced warmly rather than brightly. This added to the richness of the tone but in legato passages produced muddy scales.

Ms. Hu’s announced to the audience that Schubert’s Drei Klavierstücke (D. 946) was a personal favorite, and these three works from the composer’s last year closed the first half with diverse effects. The opening E-Flat Minor was played loudly with many telling repeated chords, putting the soft lyric song of the second E-Flat Major piece into sharp relief. Ms. Hu played it simply and with elegance. The artist highlighted the syncopations and harmonies of the final piece in C Major.

Four Chopin works comprised the second half with the afternoon’s best playing coming in the shortest work, the E Flat Nocturne of Op. 55, No. 2. Rhythmic subtlety approaching Ignaz Friedman’s iconic 1936 recording was a delight (praise can go no higher), as was Ms. Hu’s command of pianissimo. The repeated right-hand A and B Flat notes had a character of bells, and she artfully pedaled the ethereal transition to the final two chords that held me spellbound.

The Barcarolle and the E Major Scherzo received workmanlike readings that uniquely in the recital had inner voices, half-pedaled fast ascending scales, and at the return of the big theme in the Scherzo a delicate ritard that almost broke the musical thread. Almost. The tempos in both works were on the fast side and Ms. Hu seemed most comfortable when the music called for performing fast running passages in both hands, as it was in the interpretation of Chopin’s early bravura E Flat Rondo, Op. 16.

One encore was offered, Granados’ Spanish Dance No. 2, “Oriental.” It was played languorously, though not slow, and was bewitching in well under five minutes with a luxurious sonority and tranquil ending that kept the audience hushed for many seconds before applause.