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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...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
BEETHOVEN'S VALENTINE'S DAY GIFT IN RAC SEBASTOPOL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, February 14, 2020
Continuing a season of Redwood Arts Council successes, the Kouzov Duo performed an eclectic Valentine’s Day concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church before an audience of 125. Beethoven’s charming Op. 66 Variations on Mozart’s “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from the opera the Magic Flute was a bouncy ...
LUSH BACH PERFORMANCE IN DENK'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 13, 2020
Memorable artistic interpretations of musical masterpieces are often at extremes, and with the Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (WTC - Book I) that Jeremy Denk played in Weill Hall Feb. 13, the pianist was only sporadically at unique or ebullient musical ends. But his playing wasn’t exactly at opposite...
RECITAL REVIEW

Pianist Ching-Un Hu

HAUNTING RACHMANINOFF WORKS IN HU'S MAO RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 8, 2018

Ching-Yun Hu made a return Music at Oakmont appearance Feb. 8 in Berger Auditorium, reprising a recital she made in the same hall four years ago. Many of the recital’s trappings were the same, but the music Ms. Hu chose to play was decidedly different.

All afternoon the pianist was in an aggressive and speedy mood, beginning with the complete Rachmaninoff Etudes Tableaux, Op. 39. These nine works from 1917 are far removed from the more popular studies from Op. 23 and 32, and mostly portray dark sonorities in knotty figurations and powerful rhythmic surges. Missing throughout the set was a warm piano sound, contributed to by the instrument’s bright top-end and of course the composer’s constant fist fulls of notes. Lots of notes, but they were great notes, and building blocks for Mr. Hu’s dramatic contrasts and big chords.

Highlights for me were the long ending fermata in the opening C Minor; the lyrical “wind and water” voicing of the A Minor (No. 2, that Respighi orchestrated so mysteriously); the accurate heraldic skips and doubled staccato chords in the allegro molto; the left-hand rumbles and graded ritards in the E-Flat Major appassionato; and finally the improvisatory and pianistic playing and dissimilar repeats in the A Minor allegro. Repeats that were varied, a welcome romantic pianism touch.

These were formidable short “tone poems” played well with the needed speed and momentum. This approach continued after intermission with Earl Wild’s Gershwin transcriptions – Embraceable You, Fascinatin’ Rhythm and the happiest of the three, I Got Rhythm. Each was a tour de force in quick scales and contrasts – jazz, a bit of Ravel, many arpeggios. The open textures and rolled chords revealed the piano going out-of-tune in the treble.

Chopin’s Op. 2 Variations on the “La Chi Darem La Mano” theme from Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni was next, a substitute for an Alkan piece. The playing had the easy charm and tour de force of scale passages characteristic of early Chopin and Thalberg, with legato and non-legato passages vying vigorously. It was the most bewitching piece in the recital.

Continuing the program’s focus on pianistic velocity were two Kapustin Concert Etudes from Op. 40. These were both played with a fiery technique, the first in presto revolving phrases, and the second with parts languorously sounding like Palm Court music from the 1950s. Ms. Hu’s command of tsunamis of notes was complete and the offbeat accents and intricate harmonies posed no difficulty for her. The program’s second standing ovation ensued, though not vociferous.

Prior to an encore (Rachmaninoff’s Op. 21 Lilacs) Ms. Hu announced that she was shortly to record an all-Rachmaninoff CD. The melancholic Lilacs was reminiscent of Chopin and was played vividly with a hazy use of damper pedal.