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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...
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...
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.