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Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
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. ...
RECITAL REVIEW
Music at Oakmont / Thursday, February 11, 2016
Joel Fan, piano

Pianist Joel Fan

FAN RETURNS TO OAKMONT IN AN ECLECTIC RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 11, 2016

New York-based pianist Joel Fan hasn’t been a stranger to Sonoma County, having played in both the Concerts Grand and Music at Oakmont venues. February 11 he returned to Oakmont’s Berger Auditorium in an eclectic and often electric recital before 200.

Beginning with Ginastera’s first Sonata Op. 22, Mr. Fan gave the popular work from 1952 a pulsating reading that stressed the contrasting textures and meters. In the Presto double octaves didn’t fail him, and there was palpable mystery and lovely soft playing in the Adagio molto. Even here there is a continual restless quality that the pianist portrayed. In the Ruvido ed ostinato finale Mr. Fan managed the toccata-like effects without pounding, the clarity of the chords and skips admirable. The composer wrote it with a distinct nod to Prokofiev’s famous Precipitato movement from his Seventh Sonata of 1943.

It was a reading that brought out the needed motor excitement of Ginastera’s piano writing (as in the “Danza del Gaucho Matrero” from the earlier Danzas Argentinas), and Mr. Fan spoke to the audience reflecting on his Ginastera interest and the centenary of the composer’s birth.

Recently Mr. Fan toured China and brought to the Berger stage three fetching works from the trip, Autumn Moon Over the Still Lake, Liuyang River and Plum Blossom. All were audience favorites. The tranquil “Autumn” featured murmuring arpeggios and subtle pedal effects, and “River” was a jaunty exploration of colorful harmonic progressions, faintly Ravel-like. There were lots of notes and a movie-music background effect, aural pleasure in every phrase.

Jianzhong Wang’s “Plum” was the most complex of the three, exploring more the bass register of the piano and featuring pedal point, counterpoint in the variations and little bursts of energy. Mr. Fan played them sui generis. These not-recent works are wholly conservative harmonically but no less charming for it. An intriguing and happily satisfying program choice by Mr. Fan.

Following intermission Liszt’s B Minor Sonata was played, a seminal 19th century romantic work that is the center of any recital where at appears. A good performance should clock in at about 30 minutes, giving
breathing space for the chorale and lyrical segments in the midst of the famous Presto octave passages and massive fistfuls of chords. The pianist never faltered in the Sonata’s formidable technical demands, but the 26-minute performance duration (a la Argerich) disclosed some important shortcomings.

This afternoon Mr. Fan mounted a conception of the 1853 one-movement Sonata that featured quick phrases, clarity in passagework, silvery octaves and clean fast trills. This approach has many admirable facets, as it moves the often dense interior writing into distinct small sections, illuminating the repeated left-hand motives and unifying what to some is a sprawling structure. The pianist’s dry and then half-pedal runs were precise and often sparkling, and the fermata before the coda was long and put a cap on the preceding and powerful octave-laden drama.

Missing in the performance was a critical part of Liszt’s genius, that of majesty. Again and again the score unfolded in hurried phrase endings and transitions, lack of rubato in voice leading and musical nobility that can come with reveling in the instrument’s sonority, and for many the B Minor Sonata’s heroism and religious underpinnings. An example of these omissions would be the perdendosi and triple piano 14-bar section before the beginning of the fugue, where Mr. Fan’s mundane playing overlooked the haunting character of the sublime and anticipatory writing.

Two encores were offered to solid but not strenuous applause, Piazzolla’s “Flora’s Game” and a popular contemporary Japanese song, “Castle in the Sky.” Both were played compellingly, the first a captivating seven-minute tango that could also have come from Villa-Lobos or Ginastera. Piazzolla has a lock on beguiling classical music milango tangos, reminding venerable Oakmont listeners of pianist Gila Goldstein’s “Oblivion” tango performance on the same stage.

The second (“Castle”) was the pianist’s own transcription with a more interesting harmonic structure, beautifully played with luminous tone and deft phrasing.

Joel Fan’s artistry has matured in many ways since appearing at Oakmont in 2011, and his playing now is more polished and sure footed. And he is a master programmer, balancing the new, old, foreign, familiar and conventional in consummately impressive parts.