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Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now they seem to be on almost ever...
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...
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.