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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...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
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...
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.