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Chamber
YOUNG MUSICIANS SHINE AT PIANO SONOMA CONCERT
by Lee Ormasa
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
The third in a series of four concerts by Piano Sonoma artists in residence, part of the Vino and Vibrato Series, was held August 1 in Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center. Entitled “The Masters,” the program included works by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. Piano Sonoma is a summer artist-in...
Chamber
THRILLING PROGRAM CLOSES VOM CHAMBER FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, July 30, 2017
The finale of the two-week Valley of the Moon Music Festival closed July 30 with “The Age of Bravura” concert at the Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. The musical selections held to this year’s Festival theme “Schumann’s World - His Music and the Music He Loved.“ This summer Festival features chamber mus...
Chamber
PERIOD INSTRUMENTAL SOUND AT PENULTIMATE VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 30, 2017
In the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival’s penultimate concert July 30 the perennial issue of period and modern instruments was apparent. But only in the concluding Mendelssohn Trio, as the performances in the two first half works easily avoided instrumental comparisons. Clara Schumann’s t...
Chamber
ECLECTIC REPERTOIRE IN FETCHING VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 22, 2017
One of the purposes of summer music festivals is to present unfamiliar music in an attractive and often small audience setting. The Valley of the Moon Music Festival delightfully met these requirements July 22 and 23 with two concerts in the small hall at Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. Classical Sono...
Recital
ADAMS' PHRYGIAN GATES HIGHLIGHTS MORKOSKI FESTIVAL PERFORMANCE
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Attendees at the Molly Morkoski Mendocino Music Festival recital July 22 were in for a treat, both pianistically and if they happened to buy a tasty cookie during intermission. The program included Beethoven’s Op. 27 Moonlight Sonata, Adams’ Phrygian Gates, a surprise add-on of Grieg’s Holberg Suit...
Symphony
SOARING VERDI REQUIEM CLOSES 31ST MENDOCINO FESTIVAL
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
We speak frequently about how there is nothing like the experience of a live performance. Seldom was this truer than at the July 22 closing performance of the two-week Mendocino Music Festival. The Festival Orchestra, conducted by of Allan Pollack, joined with the Festival Chorus in a moving renderi...
Recital
ORGAN REGISTRATION MASTERY HEARD IN WALHAIN'S RECITAL
by Robert Young
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
A group of 65 lucky attendees July 18 had the pleasure of hearing Etienne Walhain’s recital at the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa. Mr. Walhain is organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Tournai, Belgium, and played to a varied program Bach, Franck, and Reger. He used the tonal resource...
Opera
DONIZETTI'S DON PASQUALE HAS LYRICAL CHARM IN MENDOCINO FESTIVAL PRODUCTION
by Elly Lichenstein
Friday, July 14, 2017
Mendocino Music Festival's production of Donizetti's beloved opera buffa Don Pasquale - a one-night affair July 15 that was presented in an enormous tent on a greensward overlooking the Pacific Ocean - delighted an audience of more than 600 while doing some real justice to this frothy gem of commedi...
Recital
NOVACEK'S 2ND HALF TRIFECTA SCORES AT MENDO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 13, 2017
Modern classical piano recitals are in two parts, with longer and perhaps more profound music proceeding perhaps shorter and usually stimulating lighter fare. In John Novacek’s July 13 Mendocino Music Festival recital the best playing came unexpectedly in the eight abbreviated works comprising the ...
Recital
STYLUS AND PLAYING FANTASTICUS IN YOUNG'S ORGAN RECITAL
by Paul Blanchard
Sunday, June 25, 2017
Organist Robert Young gave a wonderful tour through the stylus fantasticus (fantastic style) organ literature June 25 playing a recital on the Casavant organ at Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa. Mr. Young recently became the organist at the Church and previously served for 20 years as Music D...
RECITAL REVIEW
Green Music Center / Sunday, January 22, 2017
Wei Luo, piano

Wei Luo Playing Shostakovich Jan. 22 (J. McNeill photo)

RISKY SPEED IN POTENT LUO RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 22, 2017

Each half of pianist Wei Luo’s Schroeder Hall recital Jan. 22 contained beguiling interpretations and consummate technical command of Shostakovich and Albeniz works, but each half finished with less than exalted playing.

Two of Shostakovich’s Op. 87 Preludes and Fugues opened the recital, from the wonderful set of 24 that are played often, and by such disparate artists as jazz pianist Keith Jarrett and the Russian Tatiana Nikolayeva (the dedicatee).

Ms. Luo chose the D Major (No. 5) and the grandiose D Minor that concludes the set. The first received a jaunty reading that emphasized the rippling chords in the treble and subtle right-hand voices that were well mated to the hall’s warmly voiced piano. In the fugue repeated notes were played with just the right dry touch that moved to a forceful end. But no less forceful was the great 24th Prelude and Fugue, starting with sonorous bell notes and moving inexorably to the big-boned fugue of considerable power. A mature and potent interpretation.

Beethoven’s C Major “Waldstein” Sonata should have been the recital’s capstone, but was not, as Ms. Luo chose a tempo that constantly blurred passage work and dynamics that overwhelmed the Sonata’s humor and classical impact. It was predictable playing for a young artist – minimal attention to ritards, over pedaled and with scales where individual notes sank into a sonic bog. Wit in this intricate movement was absent.

The playing in the chaste Adagio was also predictable, slow to the point of losing focus and too loud at the one place that builds a climax.

Pianists all play the opening of the marvelous Rondo (save for Hofmann’s stunning interpretation recorded in 1938) in the same soporific way, and Ms. Luo followed this practice. And she took the conventional path of blurring the sound with no pedal change in the fifth measure, giving the swirling phrase a wash of color at the expense of clarity. By punching out so many chords so loudly the humor of the Rondo was lost, and the modestly sized Schroeder Hall was overwhelmed with percussive and forte-fortissimo sound. Virtuosity in Beethoven doesn’t always have to be stridently tumultuous.

The long trills were played well and the artist chose to play the glissando octaves in two hands as fast scales. Applause from the audience of 125 was polite but not extended.

Following intermission playing of a different sort came in three Book I selections from Albéniz’ masterful Iberia. “Evocación” was carefully phrased and unfolded without hurry and with rich tone color. “El Puerto” was also evocative along with a “skittish” character, wholly suited to the piece. Rhythmic variety and a husky sonority were present in the concluding “El Corpus en Sevilla”. There was no applause, the audience perhaps simply happy to hear so many provocative details in this mesmerizing Spanish music.

The Albéniz is far harder to play than Prokofiev’s B Flat major Sonata (No. 7) that closed the program, and the Op. 83 Sonata is arguably the most played 20th Century piano sonata. Dennis Matsuev presented a volcanic rocket-speed performance of it in Weill several months ago, and Ms. Luo began the opening march loudly but with the tricky rhythms well in place. The composer was said to have wanted most of his Sonatas played with machine-like rhythmic control, and Ms. Luo has this in abundance.

The slow movement (maybe a rose between two thorns?) had the requisite mystery only at the end, and the bass often covered the right hand tune. The famous Precipitato was played as perpetual motion and it was easily enough to generate palpable excitement. It’s that kind of piece, raucous with the punctuation of four furious B Flat ending chords.

Ms. Luo offered one encore, Rachmaninoff’s transcription of his Vocalise, Op. 34, No. 14. Her interpretation of this short melancholic song was sobering, convincing and beautiful.