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Chamber
HEROIC TRUMPET AND ORGAN MUSIC AT INCARNATION
by Jerry Dibble
Friday, October 12, 2018
The strong connections between Santa Rosa’s musical community and California State University Chico were on display Oct. 12 as David Rothe, Professor Emeritus in the Chico Music Department, and Ayako Nakamura, trumpet with the North State Symphony, presented a concert titled “Heroic Music for Trumpe...
Symphony
LECCE-CHONG PROVES HIS METTLE WITH SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 07, 2018
Francesco Lecce-Chong was handed two warhorses for his debut as conductor of the Santa Rosa Symphony, and he rode them both to thrilling victory. For the first win, Brahms’ violin concerto, he owed much to soloist Arnaud Sussman, but for the other triumph, Beethoven’s fifth symphony, he and his musi...
Chamber
THORNY BARTOK AND ELEGANT MENDELSSOHN FOR THE BRENTANO
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, September 30, 2018
In a minor masterpiece of programming choices the Brentano String Quartet played a Sept. 30 Weill Hall program with an emphasis on refinement, even with a challenging Bartok work in the mix. Dvorák’s Miniatures for Two Violins and Viola (Op. 75a) opened the concert with charm and gentle loveliness,...
Chamber
ECHO'S RICH MUSICAL TAPESTRY IN MARIN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, September 30, 2018
Marin’s Echo Chamber Orchestra unfurled a glorious tapestry of Mozart, Weber and Respighi music Sept. 30 in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church. The church, located on the grounds of San Francisco Theological Seminary, boasts a ceiling high enough for angels to fly, and its quiet setting and aco...
Recital
IDIOMATIC SCHUMANN AND BEETHOVEN HIGHTLIGHT WALKER'S CONCERTS GRAND RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 23, 2018
Mostly known as a concert producer and indefatigable promoter of Sonoma County music, pianist Judy Walker stepped into the soloist’s role Sept. 23 in a sold out recital for the Concerts Grand House recitals series. Two Scarlatti Sonatas, in D Minor (K. 213) and D Major (K. 29), began the hour-long ...
Symphony
SAKAKEENY'S LION AND ROSE HIGHLIGHTS SO CO PHIL'S 20TH SEASON OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 22, 2018
Fresh from a triumphant tour in Latin America the Sonoma County Philharmonic opened its 20th season Sept. 22 in a celebratory concert in the Santa Rosa High School Auditorium. Keeping to the evening’s orchestra history and past performance, conductor emeritus Gabriel Sakakeeny, who led the So Co Ph...
Recital
DEDIK'S POTENT BEETHOVEN AND CHOPIN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Monday, September 17, 2018
Anastasia Dedik returned Sept. 17 to the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series in a recital that featured three familiar virtuoso works in potent interpretations. Chopin’s G Minor Ballade hasn’t been heard in Sonoma County public concerts since a long-ago Earl Wild performance, and Beethoven’s...
Recital
DUO WEST OPENS OCCIDENTAL CONCERT SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 09, 2018
Before a full house at the Occidental Performing Arts Center Sept. 9 the cello-piano Duo West, playing from score throughout, presented a recital that on paper looked stimulating and thoughtful. Beginning with MacDowell’s To A Wild Rose (from Woodland Sketches, Op. 51), the transcription by an unan...
Chamber
CELLO-PIANO DUO IN HUSKY SPRING LAKE VILLAGE PROGRAM
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, September 05, 2018
Two thirds of the way through a stimulating 22-concert season the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series Sept. 5 presented two splendid cello sonatas before 110 people in the Village’s Montgomery auditorium. A duo for more than a decade, East Bay musicians cellist Monica Scott and pianist Hadle...
Chamber
EXTRAVAGANT FUSION OF STYLES AT CHRIS BOTTI BAND WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Jerry Dibble
Sunday, August 12, 2018
Trumpeter Chris Botti still performs in jazz venues including SF Jazz and The Blue Note, but now appears mostly in cavernous halls or on outdoor stages like the Sonoma State University’s Green Music Center. He brought his unique road show to the packed Weill Hall August 12 in a concert of effusive e...
RECITAL REVIEW
Mastercard Performance Series / Friday, May 06, 2016
Yuja Wang, piano

Yuja Wang at Weill Hall. (Photo by Susan Dzieza.)

AT THE BOUNDARIES OF MUSICAL EXPLORATION

by Sonia Morse Tubridy and Nicki Bell
Friday, May 06, 2016

On May 6 at Weill Hall, pianist Yuja Wang gave a much-anticipated recital of Brahms, Schumann and Beethoven. This young artist has been heralded internationally for her brilliant virtuosic technique and sensational performances. In this recital, her first to focus on a Beethoven sonata, she played his monumental "Hammerklavier" (op. 106), as well as Brahms' Ballades (Op. 10, Nos. 1/2) and Schumann's "Kreisleriana."

Wang began with the Brahms with the first Brahms Ballade, nicknamed "Edward" after a Scottish murder ballad. The opening was hushed and brooding, with Wang's fingers evoking vast spaces and sorrow, but also consolation and peace. It was magical sound painting with remarkable dynamic control. From the first quiet chord, Wang pulled the audience of around 1,000 with her to a place of intensely focused attention, swelling to loud and heavy chords and then back to whispers of sound.

The second Ballade brought the light of a major tonality in rising figures over a murmuring tide-like bass pattern. An ominous sixteenth-note pattern interrupts the delicate flow, leading to a vigorous gallop and then back to a sense of beauty and peaceful joy. This music was intimate and thoughtful, every sound meaningfully reflecting the depth of the composer's spirit. Wang could sing with gentle softness and contrast this with thick chords of great drama. Particularly moving were a beautiful tenor melody and masterful layering of sounds.

Schumann's Kreisleriana was in part inspired by an ETA Hoffman story about a composer named Kreisler who is not appreciated by "philistines" who just want light entertainment. The piece features Schumann's two contrasting musical personality types: Florestan and Eusebius. Fiery Florestan bursts forth, but Eusebius is relaxed, contemplative and dreamy. Wang succeeded in creating the different voices, growing out of each other, complementing inner dialogues and a sense of exploration. Grotesque and lyrical sections emerged, capriciousness and poetic song followed each other. Wang's artistry was exquisite and led to precious moments when pianist, instrument and listeners become immersed in an enveloping musical consciousness. When the story reached an end, Wang concluded with charm and humor. The pianistic clarity was a delight.

The second half of the program consisted entirely of the Hammerklavier sonata, composed by Beethoven in a period of great personal anguish culminating in the suicide of his beloved nephew. It is a forbidding challenge, both technically and musically. The opening chords of the Allegro, with their dotted rhythms, were suitably heroic and quickly dissolved into small groupings of motives that were constantly transformed, sometimes sounding like free improvisations and other times being pulled back to strict form. Wang used the enormous range of her instrument to create full orchestral sounds, deep rumbles, ethereal floating pitches, wild outbursts and calm sections, often simultaneously.

The fierce Scherzo, punctuated by furious repeated octaves, led to the Adagio, the heart of the sonata. This started with simple understatement and then increasing inner motion, leading to transcendental conciliation. The bridge at the end leads through uncertainty to the Finale, a fugue in three voices. The movement is a tour de force of composition, requiring of the performer virtuosic leaps, trills and furious tempi, all while managing a lengthy 108-note fugal subject.

A great performance of the Hammerklavier can grab the audience and carry it to the edge of madness until the final solid chords set them down on firm land, forever altered. Wang was up to this task. She played with courage, fire and a mature understanding of this unique and transformative sonata.

Thunderous applause had Wang return for four entertaining encores, seriousness eschewed for the complex rhythms of Kapustin's Toccata. Then two transcriptions: the Gluck/Svengeti "Dance of the Spirits" and the Schubert/Lizst "Gretchen am Spinnrade." The final encore was a humorous, jazzy arrangement of Mozart's "Rondo alla Turk" by Volotus. Wang's spirited pleasure in her own formidable abilities marked a lighthearted end to a serious and emotionally demanding program.