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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 Teachers Association of California So Co Branch / Sunday, January 10, 2016
Sophia Sun, piano

Pianist Sophia Sun

SUN'S WARM RECEPTION IN A CHILLY HALL

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 10, 2016

Program design for a piano recital is most often a decision to perform a few big sonatas and variations, sometimes by one composer, or a smorgasbord of shorter works. Sophia Sun chose mostly the latter in her local debut recital Jan. 10 before 150 in SRJC’s Newman Auditorium.

Sponsored by the Sonoma County branch of California Music Teachers Association, the hall was sprinkled with piano teachers and students, and Ms. Sun began with the big Bach Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue (S. 903). It was a performance based on finger dexterity rather than architectural strength and baroque warmth, and it was an unsteady start that perhaps was augmented by the hall having no heat. The pianist took too much time to begin the Fugue that allowed a disruptive burst of audience applause.

The afternoon’s only extended work was Beethoven’s E Major Sonata, Op. 109, a glorious three-movement Sonata that demands of the pianist introspection, warm cantabile and no small amount of fantasy. The best playing came in the six variations of the finale that rose to a strong climax before subsiding into a quiet return of the theme. The fugue was labored and left-hand passages too loud for good balance.

Before intermission the “Young Juliet” section of Prokofiev’s Op. 75 “Ten Pieces” was played, the themes generated by the composer’s ballet from 1937. It was jaunty and beguiling pianism with a chaste and tender ending, balancing deftly the sketch-like parts.

Four pieces comprised the second half, with Rachmaninoff’s Elegie in E from 1887 the only rarity. The Liszt Concert Etude in F (La Leggierezza) was first, played at a far too timid tempo (but with one delicious inner voice) that later worked well with the Rachmaninoff. Dropped notes aside, the Elegie lacked the last ounce of restful lyricism that constitute the piece, even in the loud part before the coda.

Schubert’s E Flat Impromptu (Op. 90, No. 3) was the penultimate piece, and Ms. Sun played it well and made the most of the contrasts in the mid section and the seductive finger passages in the outer sections. The artist fashioned a chaste and alluring ending, holding the audience in silence.

The seminal Chopin G Minor Ballade opened with just the right drama, tension and release of tension. Chopin’s four Ballades tell semi-secret stories and this interpretation unfolded with promise until technical problems with messy right-hand octaves and those pesky memory slips intruded. The playing in thematic statements and in repitions could have been slowed down for clarity while still keeping the emotional impact. Drama doesn’t have to be loud and fast to be thrilling.

Throughout the recital Ms. Sun addressed the audience with verbal program notes, and at the end (there was no encore) she spoke of her youthful musical training with what must have been inspirational examples for the many students that cheered her. With the specialized education audience Ms. Sun could have talked less and illustrated at least some of her commentary at the piano, increasing general understanding.

In addition to the hall’s chilly temperature the program was plagued by small production problems, mainly due to the lack of College staff during fall class break : the lack of a microphone that rendered talk from the stage too distant for understanding, not enough programs; stage lighting that didn’t work, and an out-of-tune and poorly voiced house piano. There was little tonal bloom in the instrument that has for years flaunted a beautiful treble.