Home  Reviews  Articles  Calendar  Presenters  Add Event     
Chamber
PERFORMER AS PROMOTER: CLARA SCHUMANN AND MUSICAL SALONS CLOSE VOM FESTIVAL
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Sunday, July 28, 2019
The July 28 closing performance of the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival could have been subtitled "Friends", as it was devoted to works by both Clara and Robert Schumann, and those of their friends and protégés Brahms and virtuoso violinist Joseph Joachim, with whom Clara toured extensively...
Chamber
ROMANTIC CHAMBER WORKS HIGHLIGHT VOM FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, July 27, 2019
Now in its 5th season the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival presented July 27 a concert titled “My Brilliant Sister,” featuring Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel’s compositions for combinations of voice, fortepiano and strings. Fanny and her brother Felix were close, and Felix occasionally published ...
Symphony
ROMANTIC DREAMS AT THE MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kayleen Asbo
Wednesday, July 24, 2019
Romanticism, contrary to many popular perceptions, wasn’t simply about diving into the habitat of the heart. Romanticism began as a literary movement that elevated the power of nature as a transcendent force and sought with keen nostalgia to rediscover the wisdom of the past. The Romantics in both l...
Chamber
CHAUSSON CONCERTO SHINES IN A VISIONARY'S SALON
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, July 21, 2019
Ernest Chausson’s four-movement Concerto in D Major for Violin, Piano, and String Quartet (1891) is neither concerto nor sonata nor symphony, but it somehow manages to be all three, especially when played with fire and conviction by an accomplished soloist. Those incendiary and emotional elements w...
Chamber
EUROPEAN SALON MUSIC CAPTIVATES AT VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Sunday, July 21, 2019
Two stunning programs of 19th and 20th century chamber music were presented on July 21 and 28 as part of the Valley of the Moon Music Festival at the Hanna Center in Sonoma. Festival founders and directors pianist Eric Zivian and cellist Tanya Tompkins were both on hand to contribute brilliantly at ...
Chamber
ECLECTIC INSTRUMENTAL COMBINATIONS IN VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, July 20, 2019
A Lovely summer afternoon in Sonoma Valley, an excellent small concert hall, enthusiastic audience, exciting musicians and creative programming with interesting story lines. All these were combined July 20 at a Valley of the Moon Festival concert titled “An Italian in Paris.” This is the fifth seaso...
Opera
'ELIXIR' A WELCOME TONIC IN SPRIGHTLY ANNUAL MMF OPERA
by Terry McNeill
Friday, July 19, 2019
In most of the Mendocino Music Festival’s 33 seasons a single evening is given over to a staged opera, with bare bones sets, lighting, costumes, minimal cast and short length. No Wagner or Verdi here, no multiple acts and complicated production demands. Light and frothy are the usual, and so it wa...
Recital
PUNGENT WALTZES AND VIRTUOSITY IN LADEUR'S SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, July 17, 2019
San Francisco based pianist Jeffrey LaDeur has become one of the most sought-after North Bay virtuosi, and cemented that reputation July 17 in a short but eclectic recital in Santa Rosa’s Spring Lake Village Chamber Music Series. Before 140 in the Village’s auditorium Mr. LaDeur began with Schubert...
Choral and Vocal
NOBLE BRAHMS REQUIEM PERFORMANCE CLOSES SONOMA BACH'S SEASON
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, June 01, 2019
Sonoma Bach, conducted by Robert Worth, presented a truly grand finale to their 2018-19 "Light Out of Darkness" season in two sold out Schroeder Hall performances June 1 and 2. The program "A Human Requiem" was received rapturously with a well-deserved standing ovation for the main work, Brahms' ...
Chamber
THREE SONG CYCLES HIGHLIGHT VIBRANT SLV RECITAL
by Pamela Hicks-Gailey
Wednesday, May 08, 2019
An ambitious recital of vocal and piano music was presented May 8 at Santa Rosa’s Spring Lake Village by mezzo-soprano Kindra Scharich and pianist Jeffrey LaDeur. The duo engaged the enthusiastic audience with scholarly friendliness and artistry in performances of Beethoven's short cycle of six song...
RECITAL REVIEW
Music at Oakmont / Thursday, April 11, 2019
George Li, piano

Pianist George Li

GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019

Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy that now is establishing an important international career at the age of 24. A Wunderkind is now a splendid recitalist.

His program was conventional and in many ways his interpretations of Beethoven and Liszt were conformist, albeit at a virtuoso level of technique and insight. Beethoven’s Andante Favori and the C Major “Waldstein” Sonata comprised the first half before 200, the largest recent audience in Berger Auditorium. The Andante (WoO 57) was played with just the right tempo with sprightly small ornaments that moved around the principal note and often a staccato touch. Phrases were shaped with care. A finished performance.

Impeccable scale technic was a prime part of Mr. Li’s Beethoven Sonata, and throughout the performance his exemplary pianistic prowess was on full display. The command of seamless changes in volume and rhythm characterized the opening allegro, with scant attention paid to ritards or the humor in the writing. Haydn is often noted as the humorist in classical period music, but Beethoven is also a master of comedy in his scores, an approach foreign to Mr. Li’s conception, at least in this afternoon’s reading.

The slow adagio molto was spiritually shaped with a whiff of mystery, and calmly lead into the concluding Rondo. Marked allegretto moderato, standard interpretations of this magical movement are played in a dreamy style, and Mr. Li did so effortlessly with expert pedaling but no pedal point or inner voices. Scale playing was again faultless and he chose to play the famous octave passages in both hands as scales rather than employing glissandos. The bright top register of the hall’s piano was ideal for the “Waldstein” interpretation.

Two Liszt works, the Sonetto Del Petrarca No. 104 the Les Jeux d’eaux a la Villa d’Este (from Années de Pèlerinage, Vol. 3), began the second half and were highlights of the afternoon. Here the pianist’s repeated note mastery, fast trills and novel soft sforzandos produced a shimmering sense of water inspired by the Tivoli Villa near Rome, and perfection in running thirds and subtle dynamic control came in the Sonetto. The decrescendo in the last few bars of the Sonetto was captivating and masterfully phrased. Rich tonal color was also heard in each of these pieces.

Reminiscences of Don Juan, from Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni, closed the formal program in a blaze of virtuosity. Mr. Li’s technical arsenal seems to have everything, and everything is needed in this 16-minute pianistic tour de force - speedy octaves, skips, detaché touch, brilliant repeated chords, fluent thematic statements and clarity at places of exceptional difficulty. However, for this extravagant music Mr. Li lacked a critical item of technic – instrumental volume and sonority.

Orchestral sonority in piano playing is not a factor of the pianist’s physical size, and many powerhouses in the past (Rosenthal, Anton Rubinstein, Hofmann, Horowitz) were below average in height. The sound needed for a great performance of Liszt’s Don Juan is produced by a mix of arm and shoulder strength, speed of key descent and adroit pedaling. Mr. Lee’s interpretation, however admirable, could not generate the needed musical force and demonic punch. Musical histrionics demand tumult.

Of course the playing brought down the house, and the artist returned to the stage and played a melting and mournful Intermezzo from Brahms’ Op. 118, No. 6. Another encore was demanded and he launched into the virtuoso showpiece of Liszt’s third study (La Campanella) from the set of Paganini Etudes from 1851. His dazzling command of upper register repeated notes never failed him.