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Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
Symphony
PEACE AND LOVE FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 04, 2018
Before the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 4 performance of Leonard Bernstein’s “Symphonic Dances from West Side Story,” Symphony CEO Alan Silow took a moment to acknowledge the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack and to observe that music offers a more peaceful and loving view of the world. Mr. ...
Chamber
ATOS TRIO IN MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 04, 2018
When the ATOS Piano Trio planned their all-Russian touring program at their Berlin home base, it had a strong elegiac, even tragic theme that surely resonated with their Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience Nov. 4 in Mill Valley. Comprised of Annette von Hehn, violin; Thomas Hoppe, piano; and...
Chamber
ATOS TRIO IN OCCIDENTAL CHAMBER CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 03, 2018
When the Berlin-based ATOS Piano Trio entered the cramped Occidental Performing Arts stage Nov. 3, the audience of 100 anticipated familiar works in the announced all-Russian program. What they got was a selection of rarely-plays trios, with a gamut of emotions. Then one-movement Rachmaninoff G Mi...
Symphony
MIGHTY SHOSTAKOVICH 10TH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 28, 2018
Just two works were on the opening program of the Marin Symphony’s 67th season Oct. 28, Tchaikovsky’s iconic D Major Violin Concerto, and Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony. Before a full house in the Marin Center Auditorium conductor Alasdair Neale set a judicious opening tempo in the brief orchestra i...
Symphony
VIVALDI FOR ALL SEASONS IN WEILL BAROQUE CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, October 27, 2018
The Venice Baroque Orchestra, a dozen superb musicians that include strings, harpsichord and recorder, played an uplifting concert Oct. 27 of mostly Vivaldi sinfonias and concertos. The Weill Hall audience of 600 had rapt attention throughout, and the playing was of the highest musical level. This r...
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.