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Symphony
ZUILL PLAYS ZWILICH WITH SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The Santa Rosa Symphony took a cautious step toward the return of live music in their March 28 virtual concert by sharing the stage with an actual live soloist rather than an apparition. Star cellist Zuill Bailey was still masked, and his back was toward the equally masked and plexiglassed orchestra...
Chamber
ECLECTIC CELLO PIANO VIRTUAL RECITAL FROM TOMKINS ZIVIAN DUO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The venerable 41-year Redwood Arts Council Series in Occidental has joined the virtual recital world with low budget but artistically satisfying programs, mostly using videos filmed in the performer’s residences. March 28 saw the Tanya Tomkins-Eric Zivian duo present an eclectic program from their ...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HITS THE SWEET SPOT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Small orchestras can inhabit a sweet spot between chamber ensembles and full orchestras, but how well they hit that spot depends on the composer's orchestration and the players' ability to project. That dependence was on full display in the Santa Rosa Symphony's Feb. 28 concert, which featured three...
Chamber
NOVEL OBOE-HARPSICHORD RECITAL FROM AIKEN DUO IN UKIAH
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Oboe and harpsichord recitals are a rare North Bay event, even in a pandemic environment where a formal hall setting isn’t available. So it was a delight Feb. 21 to experience on the Ukiah Symphony’s website a recital by Symphony oboist Beth Aiken and harpsichordist husband Tom. The Aiken home vis...
Symphony
A HEALTHY MIX OF TRANSCRIPTIONS AND ORIGINALS FROM THE SR SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Transcriptions and ascending arpeggios were the order of the day on Jan. 24, as the Santa Rosa Symphony performed uplifting works by Bach/Webern, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Marianna Martínes and Mozart. The concert video was made in Weill Hall on Jan. 9. The first transcription was Webern’s 1935 renderi...
Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
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.