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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 Rosaís Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San Josť, Costa Ricaís 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 Countyís 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 Hallís residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLERíS FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the universityís stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the universityís 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. SaŽnsí majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec lí...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago ďGolden EraĒ of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didnít play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuberís work to the publicís 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 seasonís 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 Sebastopolís Community Church, as the performers...
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.