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Chamber
STYLISH HAYDN QUARTETS CLOSE GREEN ROOM SERIES
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, May 9, 2021
Completing the Green Music Center’s spring series series of “Green Room” virtual concerts, the St. Lawrence String Quartet played May 9 a lightweight program of two Haydn works. Lightweight perhaps, but in every way satisfying. The G Major Quartet (Op. 76, No.1) began the music that was supplement...
Recital
ECLECTIC PIANISM IN SPRING LAKE VILLAGE VIRTUAL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, May 5, 2021
During the pandemic The Santa Rosa Symphony’s virtual concerts received their due in performance praise, but another series, Spring Lake Village, more quietly presented monthly virtual concerts to a select local audience. May 5 saw the latest event, produced by impresario Robert Hayden, and feature...
Symphony
SONIC CONTRASTS HIGHLIGHT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SPRING PROGRAM
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 25, 2021
In a curious mixture of compositions, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s penultimate virtual concert of the season April 25 unfolded in ways both highly satisfying and a bit perplexing. Directed by resident Music Director Francesco Lecce-Chong, the event followed a familiar format – several contemporary wor...
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 REVIEW
Oakmont Concert Series / Thursday, August 14, 2008
JOEL FAN, CONCERT PIANIST

JOEL FAN

PIANIST ON THE MOVE

by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Joel Fan is a pianist on the move. On August 14, in his second Oakmont Concert Series performance in the past three years, he commanded the stage with boundless energy and gave an eclectic program heavy on thunder and excitement.

His concert was billed as music from North and South America, but somehow Beethoven's A-Flat Major Sonata, Op. 110, was squeezed in to end the first half, and it received a committed performance, full of nuance and occasional mystery. The opening Moderato Cantabile was pensive, with the left hand trills evocative. A crisp and lyric reading of the scherzo-like Adagio led to the majestic concluding fugue, which Fan paced with great care. Although Fan's performance of the noble fugue wasn't monumental, the end arrived with great dignity.

Ginastera's Sonata No. 1 began the afternoon. Fan emphasized the similarities to Prokofiev's early sonatas in the first movement, and he floated three high notes with aplomb, ending the Adagio molto appassionato. The restless toccata finishing the work was a percussive and high energy journey under Fan's fleet fingers. However, the piano sound at the top end became increasingly brittle, particularly when Fan demanded a lot of volume, indicating some attention to hammer voicing may be in order.

Two short works by Nazareth and Piazzola (the latter a lovely Prelude from 1987, similar to the composer's 'Oblivion') led to 'Troubled Water,' by Chicago composer Margaret Bonds. Fan brought out the rhythmic complexities and insistent syncopation, but the piece ultimately lacked interest. Nonetheless, Bonds, the teacher of Ned Rorem, was a welcome and rare addition to the program.

A quite different experience was the Barber Sonata, a 1949 work that has become a repertoire staple. I have always liked the live Cliburn performance from his second Soviet Union tour of 1960, and the more relaxed approach from Arizona pianist Nicholas Zumbro. Fan veered towards the Cliburn reading, seizing the dissonant block chords in the first movement and underscoring the vacillating double and triple meters. The performance of the second movement, Allegro vivace, was simply masterful, full of whimsy and subtle phrasing. The Allegro mesto was a dirge, leaving the audience adrift in a luxurious sonic fog, with Fan tolling bells with his left hand. Wonderful. The famous concluding fugue was taken at a quick clip, control almost being lost in several places, and the contrary-motion octaves at the end lacked clarity. That said, it was a riveting performance, fully realized, and the highlight of the recital.

To conclude a day of energetic pieces, Fan played Liszt's 'Rigoletto Paraphrase' dramatically; but this Verdi homage is not quite yet Fan's piece. What was missing was repose among the tumult, real legato octaves among the bravura, and a more chaste use of the pedal. One can get away with a lot in this piece, and Fan let out all the pianistic stops to the acclaim of the large audience. One left the hall humming the famous Quartet theme, surely what the Weimar master would have wanted.

Joel Fan taped a deep vein of energy in this recital, and he seemed likely to repeat the entire event if an appropriate request was offered. He is a formidable artist with an innovating and inquisitive musical nature.