Home  Reviews  Articles  Calendar  Presenters  Add Event     
Chamber
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 08, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
Choral and Vocal
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
Chamber
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
Chamber
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
Chamber
BEETHOVEN'S VALENTINE'S DAY GIFT IN RAC SEBASTOPOL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, February 14, 2020
Continuing a season of Redwood Arts Council successes, the Kouzov Duo performed an eclectic Valentine’s Day concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church before an audience of 125. Beethoven’s charming Op. 66 Variations on Mozart’s “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from the opera the Magic Flute was a bouncy ...
LUSH BACH PERFORMANCE IN DENK'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 13, 2020
Memorable artistic interpretations of musical masterpieces are often at extremes, and with the Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (WTC - Book I) that Jeremy Denk played in Weill Hall Feb. 13, the pianist was only sporadically at unique or ebullient musical ends. But his playing wasn’t exactly at opposite...
BROWNE, PAREMSKI HEAD STELLAR CAST AT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 09, 2020
The Feb. 9 performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony offered a healthy dose of 21st century music firmly bound to the 19th. Matt Browne’s first symphony, “The Course of Empire”—based on a series of five paintings by Thomas Cole, who founded the Hudson River School of American painting in the 1820s—emp...
FRENCH ORCHESTRAL MUSIC A FIRST FOR THE SO CO PHILHARMONIC
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 02, 2020
Over many years the Sonoma County Philharmonic has played little French music, but perhaps this oversight was corrected Feb. 2 in a splendid all-Gallic program Feb. 1 and 2 in the Jackson Theater. Classical Sonoma reviewed the Sunday afternoon concert. In his eighth conducting season with the So C...
Symphony
POLISH MUSICAL WORLDS GLOW BRIGHT IN NFM WROCLAW WEILL PERFORMANCE
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, February 01, 2020
The NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic, with conductor Giancarlo Guerrero, gave a concert of enormous energy and emotional impact on Feb.1 to a small audience in Weill Hall. This orchestra has been a major cultural force in Poland since 1949, playing under many renowned conductors and has been committed to pr...
Opera
EXTRAVAGANT ARIAS IN NEXT GENERATION TENORS GALA VALLEJO CONCERT
by Mark Kratz
Saturday, February 01, 2020
“Beautiful, strange, and unnatural…” said orchestra conductor Thomas Conlin when speaking of the tenor voice. One of the coveted voice types of the opera world, the tenor voice is known for it’s piercing tones and soaring, unnatural high notes. The iconic image of the Pagliacci clown (in the famed...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Mill Valley Chamber Music Society / Sunday, November 16, 2008
Hai-yi Ni, cello

CELLIST NI LENDS DRAMA AND ELEGANCE TO MILL VALLEY RECITAL

by Kenn Gartner
Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cellist Hai-Ye Ni, who grew up in Marin and attended San Anselmo’s San Domenico School, returned here Nov. 16 with pianist Lin Hong to perform in the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Series. Held at the Mount Tamalpais Methodist Church, a venue with near perfect acoustics, Ni proved quickly why she is the principal cellist of the Philadelphia Orchestra, possessing an innate musicality and an incredible bow arm. The church was filled to near standing room only for this brilliant performance, and you shoulda been there!

Ni’s collaborator, Lin Hong, is also a fine virtuoso. Seated at a Hamburg Steinway, he provided the audience able to observe his facial expressions with a wide variety of cues, cues to help them know when a particular passage was of exceptional beauty, or deep emotion, or sad or blissful. Particularly interesting were his changes of facial expression on a variety of single notes. On occasion, he would tap the damper pedal hard enough to be heard in the hall. At other times, he would dig in his heels, one at a time, to provide a percussion-like accompaniment in the fourth movement of the opening Beethoven Sonata in A Major, Op. 69.

One sour note was the lid of the piano was set on short stick instead of a fully raised on the prop. As noted in a prior review, no less an authority than Dmitri Shostakovich wrote that “. . . the lid of a concert piano should be up at all times.” Nevertheless, Hong felt the need for incessant use the shift pedal. The shift or una corda pedal is sometimes incorrectly termed “soft pedal.” It is definitely not a “soft pedal, but is a mute (as in mutation) and is used to change the quality of a piano’s sound for certain musical reasons. The words literally mean “one string” which dates back to the time when pianos possessed but two strings from the middle register upwards. Now pianos have three, and occasionally four, strings per note. When a player pushed the shift pedal, the entire keyboard shifts to the right such that hammers struck but one string. As one may surmise that over time the piano hammers acquire grooves where they contact strings, thus compressing and hardening the felt of the hammerheads. When pressing the left pedal, the hammers move to the right and contact the strings, not in the hardened grooves, but on the soft and pliable lands between the grooves. I have no idea what Mr. Hong intended when he played fortissimo passages with the shift pedal held down.

In the dramatic Beethoven Ni’s melodic gift was in great evidence, and it’s no surprise the A Major is the most popular of his cello sonatas. Despite a very slight lack of coordination at the start of the work, it was played beautifully throughout.

Composer Bruce Adolph is a very funny guy, and check out his performance on UTube while he was at Cornell University. Therefore, I expected a rather amusing work, but his Couple for Cello and Piano, a work in four movements, ranged from the meditative to the joyous. According to the outstanding program notes (Brava Judith M. Taylor) Couple combines Eastern and Western material and the effects, played and plucked, on the Pipa (a Chinese stringed instrument) are part of his musical landscape in pizzicato passages, as is the sound of a Bandoneon. I hope it enters the repertory.

Cesar Franck’s Sonata in A Major is in the same key as the Beethoven, and thus ties the second half of the program to the first. It was performed in its far more difficult incarnation for cello as opposed to its original violin. For performers, it is risky to play too much in the same key, but Ni pulled it off, the cyclic form allowing the elegance to unfold without the audience’s ears tiring of the same key. The piano part of this work is difficult, but Mr. Hong nailed it.

The program closed with the Grand Tango by Astor Piazzola, a virtuoso tour de force. This is a slap-dash bravura work for the piano and the cello, which never fails to raise the audience to its loudest applause. Lasting about 11 minutes, it is powerful, emotional, fast, slow, dramatic, happy, sad, and just plain fun.

Oh, and just to drive home the concept of cyclic composition, the audience was rewarded with an encore cello transcription of one of Schumann’s “Fantasiestuck” for piano, Op. 12.