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Recital
HOME RECITAL BACH COMPLETES HOLIDAY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 30, 2017
The just closing 2017 year was a calamity for many, but locally in music there were joys galore, and it was fitting Dec. 30 have the balm of two Bach’s violin sonatas in a private Guerneville home recital hosted by the eminent musician Sonia Tubridy. Violinist Richard Heinberg joined Ms. Tubridy in...
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 WITH 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...
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.