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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
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.