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Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s Sonoma Overt...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
Chamber
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, perfor...
Symphony
AMERICAN CLASSICS SPARKLE UNDER KAHANE’S BATON
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Jeffrey Kahane, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s former conductor, returned to the Weill Hall podium on Saturday night, and the results were expectedly wonderful. The concert of American classics was by turns playful (Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”), emotional (Barber’s violin concerto) and triumphant (...
Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
CHORAL AND VOCAL REVIEW
Green Music Center / Sunday, January 17, 2016
Nicholas Phan, tenor; Myra Huang, piano

Tenor Nicholas Phan

MEDITATIONS ON THE ARTIST

by Mark Kratz
Sunday, January 17, 2016

Schroeder Hall's vocal recital Jan. 17 centered on the life of the artist, and tenor Nicholas Phan described the recital as “meditations on the artist” that highlighted the concepts of hypersensitivity and a sense of child-like wonder that many artists experience.

The entire first half of the recital was Schumann’s song cycle Dichterliebe, Op. 48. It is a work comprised of sixteen pieces set to the poems of romantic German poet Heinrich Heine with the overall storyline of a poet’s discovery and loss of love.

Mr. Phan and pianist Myra Huang both bring a large palette of different sound colors to this piece. In the fourth song of the cycle, “Wenn ich in deine Augen seh”, the final line translates to: “Yet when you say, ‘I love you!’ I must cry so bitterly.” Mr. Phan’s pure and focused sotto voce on the words, “I love you!” truly brought the house to an audible silence.

The seventh song of the cycle, “Ich grolle nicht,” stood out as a dramatic gem and one of the more difficult pieces in the cycle. In essence, this piece is about losing love and realizing the other person was not in fact who you believed them to be. “Ich grolle nicht” has a large range of almost two octaves and sits rather low in the voice until the ending, then soars to a high A. Mr. Phan’s tone was very dark and heavy for most of the piece and it was evident when he approached the higher range that the sound was forced and somewhat strained. This could be said of most of Mr. Phan’s higher range while singing full voice throughout the afternoon. Though sounding a bit strained, you could see the fire in the singer’s eyes and his intense connection to the text. His diction was so intense that you could see sprays of passionate saliva spewing into the front rows!

Ms. Huang was able to extract a myriad of colors and sound sizes from the piano. Throughout Dichterliebe she had the ability to accompany like a small exposed string quartet, as in the blocked chords of the thirteenth song, “Ich hab’ im Traum geweinet.” She could also play like a full orchestra as in the ninth song “Das ist ein Flӧten und Geigen.” In this piece she used thick resonant left hand chords under a never ending right hand line that sounded like an entire first violin section. Ms. Huang ended Dichterliebe with a short piano section where she laid out a hauntingly expressive melody mixed with extreme sensitivity to the chromatic journey in the final measures of the work.

The all-English second half opened with Britten’s setting of Winter Words by 19th century poet Thomas Hardy. In Winter Words Hardy examines innocence and its frailty. Mr. Phan said, “Artists seem to always keep their child like wonder.” This piece examines why and how we lose that innocent wonderment of the world. Mr. Phan and Ms. Huang brought Britten’s use of polytonality and text painting to the spotlight light in this piece. In the second song “The Journeying Boy” we heard a train whistle in the piano that begins as a tight, dissonant chord that resolves to a very open and empty minor chord. This leaves the listener with a sense of foreboding about the boy’s journey. The fourth piece “The Little Old Table” employs a whimsical dialogue between the singer and the pianist. Both performers mimic a table by imitating the creaking of wood as a way of communicating its past.

The recital continued with four poems from the prolific American poet Walt Whitman set to music by Ned Rorem. Mr. Phan looked and sounded like he was very much at home with these pieces. His exceptional control of his sotto voce, when not pressed, has a lovely lyrical tenor sound. By far the most beautiful of the Rorem pieces was “That Shadow, my Likeness.” Here Mr. Phan use a brighter more Italianate sound and it was simply stunning in regard to both color and line.

The final set on the recital was Friendly Persuasions by American composer Jake Heggie (who composed the opera Dead Man Walking). In 2008, Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer were asked to compose a song cycle for a concert of music by French composer Francis Poulenc, and Scheer chose to base the texts of the pieces on significant friendships that steered Poulenc’s colorful career. Throughout the four pieces one can hear Heggie’s references to Poulenc’s harmonic language.

Mr. Phan seemed totally connected to this set both vocally and dramatically. The third song “Raymonde Linossier” was one of the most exquisite moments of the entire program. The piece begins with text painting from the piano. The accompaniment descends as the words “A green leaf falls to the ground, pulled from the branch too soon…” are sung. Although a homosexual, Poulenc had a deeply rooted long time Plutonic love for his friend Raymonde Linossier. When she declined his proposal for marriage, the two had a falling out, and they never mended ways and Linossier died an untimely and unexpected death. Mr. Phan channeled Poulenc’s heartbreak and despair with the words: “Part of my life will always belong to you.”

Mr. Phan and Ms. Huang presented a dynamic and polished recital focused on images of the artist. They both showed great detailing in their colors and their wide range of techniques. Though a bit heavy sometimes, Mr. Phan has a clean lyric tenor sound, and possesses amazing control of sotto voce and mixed voice. Ms. Huang is a skilled and sensitive artist.