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Recital
SLAM BANG SONORITY IN HAOCHEN ZHANG'S SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 19, 2017
Piano Competition winners are in ample supply, and it’s often a hit and miss proposition as to their sterling interpretative qualities. However, the quadrennial Van Cliburn Competition in Ft. Worth has continually produced top-level artists, and the 2009 winner Haochen Zhang proved a formidable per...
Symphony
FOREIGN AFFAIRS CHARACTERS OF THE BAROQUE
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, known as Akamus, played a Weill Hall concert March 12 in a program called "Foreign Affairs -Characters of the Baroque.” The ensemble, that began in 1984, has 15 musicians led by concert master Bernhard Forck. Attired in elegant black with red accents, ranging from tie...
Recital
MUSCULAR PIANISM DOMINATES MILL VALLEY CHAMBER SOCIETY RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Piano recitals since the beginning of the genre open with finger pieces - Scarlatti or Soler Sonatas, Bach, a Mendelssohn Prelude and Fugue or perhaps Mozart or Haydn. Sarah Daneshpour’s March 12 opening work at the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society series abruptly avoided the norm with the 10-minut...
Recital
NOVEL HAYDN AND SCHUMANN IN YARDEN'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, March 09, 2017
Israeli pianist Einav Yarden has been a frequent Sonoma County visitor, playing private recitals for Spring Lake Village and Concerts Grand, and twice performing for Music at Oakmont. The Berlin-based artist returned to Oakmont’s Berger Auditorium March 9 with a program that was neither for connois...
Chamber
CONSUMMATE ENSEMBLE FROM THE MIRÓ IN WEILL
by Sonia Tubridy and Nicki Bell
Sunday, March 05, 2017
A March 5 Weill hall audience of 350 leaned in to share an intimate musical space and to hear the Miró String Quartet’s sterling concert. Starting with Haydn's Op. 20, No. 4, the four musicians seemed to want listeners to be enveloped in their music. The Miró plays with the feat of being four dist...
Recital
BRILLIANT VIOLIN AND PIANO ARTISTRY CHARMS SCHROEDER HALL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 26, 2017
A tiny Schroeder Hall audience heard a flawless recital Feb. 26 by Yu-Chien Tseng, arguably the best recent local violin recital since Gil Shaham’s transversal of the complete Bach Suites in Weill and Frank Almond’s Oakmont recital in 2015. Muscular playing was the afternoon’s norm, and with pianis...
Chamber
MUSIC AND ART MELD IN ZUCKERMAN TRIO CONCERT
by Nicki Bell
Friday, February 24, 2017
A Feb. 24 Weill Hall concert by the Pinchas Zuckerman Trio juxtaposed formidable music making with palpable associations about visual art. Brahms’ C Minor "Sonatensatz” (Scherzo) is a short youthful work for violin and piano, and was an opening call to action. Lively and vigorous playing alternated...
Chamber
THREE BEETHOVEN TRIOS BEGUILE AUDIENCE IN FEB. 19 WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Chamber music concerts featuring one composer can be tricky, but the Han/Setzer/Finckel trio made a Feb. 19 Weill Hall audience of 500 hear and to a degree see the boundless creativity of Beethoven. The G Major Trio, Op. 1, No. 2, opened the afternoon’s Beethoven odyssey and one wonders why it is t...
Chamber
AUTHORITATIVE BARTOK HIGHLIGHTS TETZLAFF VIOLIN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 18, 2017
Christian Tetzlaff’s Feb. 18 violin recital rolled along with lively and fresh readings of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert when the specter of Bartok’s granitic Second Sonata intervened. The sonic shock to the audience of 250 in Weill was palpable. Composed in 1923 the 20-minute two-movement work i...
Symphony
WHAT SOUND DO STAR-CROSSED LOVERS MAKE?
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 12, 2017
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, so the Santa Rosa Symphony feted the occasion by telling and retelling the story of Romeo and Juliet, a tale ever the more poignant during our era of stark divisions. The first telling was from Berlioz; the second from Prokofiev. In between was Brahms’ monu...
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.