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Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the season’s final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church, as the performers...
Chamber
TRIO NAVARRO'S POPULAR FARE IN SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 08, 2018
Long time Classical Sonoma readers may recall many Trio Navarro concert reviews that lauded their virtuosity and interest in rarely played repertoire. The April 8 concert in Schroeder Hall before 85 chamber music fans featured sterling performances but had a mostly conservative menu of popular trio...
Recital
KENNER'S ALL POLISH RECITAL HAS PADEREWSKI RARITY
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, April 08, 2018
Kevin Kenner’s April 8 recital at Dominican University’s Angelico Hall had been advertised as all-Chopin, but he added a detour into another seminal Polish composer-pianist, Paderewski. Several of Mr. Kenner’s teachers were Poles, he speaks Polish, and he navigated at the piano both composers’ deman...
Symphony
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE VOICE AT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, April 08, 2018
In an April 8 Santa Rosa Symphony concert filled to the brim with instruments--electric violin, vibraphone, marimba, xylophone, glockenspiel, keyboard samplers, harps, piano and myriad drums, gongs and bells, to say nothing of winds, brass and strings--the instrument that came out on top was the hum...
Chamber
VOM FESTIVAL TRIO CHARMS WITH CHAMBER MIX, AND HUMMEL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, March 31, 2018
At the core of the group of Valley of the Moon Music Festival (VOM) musicians is an ensemble of trios and duos, and as a trio March 31 Festival founders cellist Tanya Tomkins and pianist Eric Zivian joined British violinist Monica Huggett for a chamber music concert in the Green Music Center’s Schro...
Choral and Vocal
GOOD FRIDAY REQUIEM FILLS INCARNATION
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 30, 2018
Maurice Duruflé’s short and intense Requiem has been heard in Santa Rosa’s Church of the Incarnation before, but the March 30 Good Friday performance was stripped down in the number of performers, combining Cantiamo Sonoma and the St. Cecilia Choir with musical underpinning from organist Robert Youn...
Symphony
HAMELIN'S HUSKY MOOD IN SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 25, 2018
Convention in piano recitals has the artist coming on stage and playing. Canadian pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin walked on Schroeder Hall’s stage March 25 and didn’t play for six minutes, chatting with the audience. A risk for some artists. Then most programs include a contemporary or rarely play...
Recital
VIRTUOSIC VARIATIONS IN MORGAN'S SCHROEDER ORGAN RECITAL
by Paul Blanchard
Sunday, March 18, 2018
Organist Robert Huw Morgan’s artistry spun through the web of early variation form in a Mar. 18 recital on Schroeder Hall’s wonderful Brombaugh organ. Mr. Morgan, Stanford University’s resident organist, performs a wide range of repertoire, but as he said in comments to the audience, he loves when h...
Symphony
ORFF AND HINDEMITH SONIC SPLENDOR AT FINAL SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, March 17, 2018
Sonoma County Philharmonic concerts are continually artistically successful but on the Santa Rosa High School’s stage the orchestra rarely numbers above 40, and in the 900-seat hall audiences can be scant. Violinists can be in short supply. An opposite scene occurred at the March 17/18 concert set...
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.