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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...
Chamber
UNEXPECTED ARENSKY AND MENDELSSOHN BY THE NAVARRO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
The 100 people entering Schroeder Hall Feb. 17 for a Trio Navarro concert were handed a program that appeared to feature two popular piano trios, Mendelssohn and Arensky. But continuing the Navarro’s tradition of repertoire exploration, the pieces were not the usual first Mendelssohn and first Aren...
Recital
GLOVER'S ECLECTIC PROGRAMMING HIGHLIGHT'S CINNABAR RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
Daniel Glover is arguably the busiest virtuoso pianist in the San Francisco Bay area, but rarely is heard in North Bay concerts. So 90 local pianophiles were anxious to hear him Feb. 17 in Petaluma’s charming small Cinnabar Theater, and they were rewarded with an eclectic program of sometimes unfam...
Symphony
MENDELSSOHN'S SCOTTISH SAVES THE EVENING IN SRS WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Monday, February 11, 2019
The audience entering Weill Hall for Santa Rosa Symphony concerts Feb. 9-11 were presented with a program that on first glance appeared a curious patchwork – a great symphony mixed with a seldom heard concerto and two disparate overtures, and a guest conductor unknown locally. Monday night’s concer...
Recital
INTRIGUING BELL-HAYWOOD RECITAL BEFORE FULL HOUSE IN WEILL HALL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, February 08, 2019
A big portion of the capacity audience in Weill Hall February 8th came to hear violinist Joshua Bell’s virtuosity, and were treated as well to splendid playing from Sam Haywood, Mr. Bell’s regular pianist since 2010. The duo performed three engaging sonatas, highlighted by Mr. Bell’s sterling techn...
Symphony
TRIPLE PLAY UKIAH SYMPHONY CONCERT AND TCHAIKOVSKY SERENADE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Over the years the Ukiah Symphony’s concerts have been in the Classical Sonoma Calendar sections, but rarely has this Orchestra, now in its 39th season, had a full winter season concert review. The provocative Jan. 27 program in Mendocino College’s Center Theater seemed a good reason to reacquaint ...
Symphony
JACKSON THEATER WELCOMES A NEW RESIDENT ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Moving to a permanent new performance venue can be a perilous undertaking for an orchestra, with different acoustics, the loyal audience finding the new spot and infrastructure challenges of lighting and lobby and backstage operations. In their first concert Jan. 26 in Windsor’s Jackson Theater the...
Symphony
ECLECTIC PASSIONATE PROGRAMMING AT MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 26, 2019
The Marin Symphony’s second Masterworks concert of the 2018-19 season featured works by John Adams, Sibelius and Brahms, a masterful assembly. In a spoken introduction before the program’s first half, conductor Alasdair Neale primed the audience for the “terra incognita” of Adams’ The Chairman Dance...
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.